Friday, October 21, 2011

Destined for Greatness

The other day I was watching one of my kids favorite movies with them, The Incredibles. We all love this movie as it has many well thought out moral stories and ethical questions answered. But one of my favorite lines in the movie, and forgive me for the paraphrasing, is when Mr. Incredible's son, Dash, has a ceremony at school for the children that are 'graduating' 4th grade and moving to the 5th and Mr. Incredible answers saying, "That's ludicrous! They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity!" How true is this statement! In the Gospel of Matthew Ch. 25, Jesus gives us the Parable of the Talents. In this parable Jesus shows us how we are to use the gifts and talents that God has given us. The two men that use their talents and bring back twice as much are given great rewards, whereas the man that puts his one talent in the ground and does nothing with it is basically given a death threat, 'And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ As human beings, and even more as creatures of God, we are meant to use every single ounce of talent that we contain to proclaim and further the Kingdom of God. No one wants to be mediocre, just look at the celebrity worshipping culture we live in. Everyone wants to be recognized as great, the problem lies in how the culture defines greatness and how we are teaching our children to be great.

True greatness lies in responsibility and sacrifice. Taking from some of my favorite examples, St. Francis Xavier, Bl. Franz Jagerstatter, St. Clare, Joan of Arc, and Bl. Miguel Pro, these amazing men and women sacrificed their blood, sweat and tears for the greater glory of God and will be known through the annals of history because of that sacrifice. Magnanimity, or greatness of soul, is not supposed to be easy. Legends and heroes are those that gave every fiber of their being over to a great cause worth dying for. Edward Sri put it this way,"The magnanimous person pursues greatness in proportion to his ability. He humbly takes stock of all the gifts that God has given him and seeks to use them as best he can. As Aquinas explains, 'Magnanimity makes a man deem himself worthy of great things in consideration of the gifts he holds from God.'" Sri then goes on using Aquinas to explain why some people prefer not to strive for greatness, 1. they are ignorant of one's own qualification, or 2. fear of failure. In the first instance, we are all qualified in our own way to be great, simply because we are children of God. While it is very easy to think of yourself as little or insignificant, and these thoughts can definitely help with humility, they should never stray us away from the end goal of celebrating eternity with our Lord and Savior. The second reason, fear of failure, is something that is ingrained into all of us and I believe a large part of that is because of our concupiscence. Fear of failure dissipates when we know we are following the will of God. While doubt will always reside due to human failings giving up is never an option for those that desire to honor their Creator. In our Catholic Faith we have the greatest cause that this world can offer. God Himself came down from His thrown to die for the very same cause.

It seems that during the founding of the United States people had an understanding that they could do great and wonderful things as long as they worked hard for it. But the latest psychology taught to our children and us is that everyone is OK just the way they are and there is no need to try for anything out of the ordinary. But if self-perfection is no longer the goal then self-destruction will be the end result. One word that neo-liberal secularists hate is: control. Self-control, i.e. control of the passions, is compared to the ever-feared poison apple given by some evil witch for us to devour and die. But, true self-mastery is just the opposite, it is Jack's magic beans and when planted into fertile soil and watered with truth we grow like the beanstalk, toward the heavens. John Milton once said, '"He who reigns within himself and rules his passions, desires, and fears is more than a king.", and when one thinks of the greatest men and women of our times they were not the 'fly-by-night flim-flamsies' that believe truth is relevant (see pictures of Occupy Wall Streeters for examples). They knew that truth and goodness were worth dying for only because they were, and still are, the ultimate goal. The higher we regard truth the closer we come to God, the closer we hold goodness the more we travel on the way of perfection.

“The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness.” Pope Benedict XVI

Monday, October 17, 2011

Notes from the Gospels Adapted from The Navarre Bible

Next Sunday's Gospel, October 23,2011

Matthew 22:34-40

Jesus gives the two greatest commandments

Jesus summarizes all the commandments into two: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all you mind...You shall love your neighbor as yourself." The first law is the most important, loving God unconditionally. The second is the result and consequence of the first. St. Thomas tells us that when man is loved, God is loved because man is the image and likeness of God. 

When we really love God we love others because we realize they too are made in the image and likeness of God. But if we think we love another without the recognition of his/her likeness to God, we fool ourselves. Because without God, there is no love since "God is love" as John tells us (1 John 4:8). Without God, we are focused on self and what another can do for me or how another can make me feel. Could this be a reason for so many relationships coming to an end? The focus is on me first, rather than God first and the other person second? It is said that you can't give what you don't have. If we don't first have the love of God flowing into our hearts we can't have love to give to another. It's like the energy we need to keep functioning throughout the day. If we don't feed our bodies with nutritional food, we can't continue to work. Likewise, if we don't fill our hearts with God's love, we won't have love to give. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Revisions of the Mass (part 2)

The Introductory Rites & The Penitential Act

This week we will begin the explanation of the different responses we, as the laity of the Church, will give in the Mass. (We will not focus on the different prayers of the priest.  There are actually far more changes for them than there are for us.)

The Introductory Rites

The priest has 3 different forms he can use in the Introductory Rite:

1) The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you.
2) Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3) The Lord be with you.  

We respond to any one of these forms with the word, “And with your spirit.”


  • ·         At the ordination of every priest the Holy Spirit descends upon him to give him the spirit to serve in persona Christi. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us in paragraph 1551, “The sacrament of Holy Orders communicates a “sacred power” which is none other than that of Christ.” This means our priests stand visibly in the place of Christ, who is not visible to us as man, here on earth.  When they speak, especially in the sacraments, they are the voice of Christ.
  • ·         When we say, “And with your spirit” we are calling on the Holy Spirit who was given to the priest at his ordination to work through him, bringing Christ to us.
Scripture Connection

  • ·         St. Paul taught that It is in the spirit, or we might say heart, in which the Holy Spirit resides in us. (1 Corinthians 14:15).  We are calling on the Holy Spirit to work through the priest.
  • ·         St. Paul used similar words.
o   When saying good-bye to the people of Galatia he said, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen” (Galatians 6:18).
o   To his friend and disciple Timothy, he said, “The Lord be with your spirit” (2 Timothy 4:22).

Penitential Act (Confiteor)

This is the general confession we make at the beginning of Mass.

The change will be as follows with changes in red:

 “I confess to Almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,…”

The addition of the word “great” is to help us to realize that every sin is an offense to the good God who wants to love us and receive our love in return.  When we sin, we hurt and disappoint God.  We want to sharpen the awareness of sin in our lives so that we can experience God’s transforming love in our lives.

During the next phrase, we strike our breast (chest) three times at the word ‘fault’.

“…through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault;
Therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.

  • ·         We say the word ‘fault’ three times as we strike our breasts so that we may humbly realize the rejection of the love of the Holy Trinity when we sin.
  • ·         This helps us to have real sorrow and contrition for our sins and for hurting God, who gives us nothing but love.
  • ·         This prayer prepares us to three times ask for God’s mercy. (Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.)

Penitential Act Form B

The priest will say, “Have mercy on us, O Lord.”
We respond, “For we have sinned against you.”
Priest: “Show us, O Lord, your mercy.
We respond: “And grant us your salvation.


  • ·         This is a less used form, but has the change.
  • ·         The words in red are the exact Latin translation.
  • ·         We are acknowledging that not only has our sin possibly hurt someone else, it has hurt God and we are in need of His healing.
      Scripture Connection
  • ·         As for me, I said, “O Lord, be gracious to me; heal me, for I have sinned against you!” (Psalm 41:4).

We will cover the Gloria next week, which has several changes, all of which are beautiful and rich.  

As always, feel free to leave a comment or ask a question and we will do our best to get back to you. 

God’s blessings!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sacramentum Donum Dei: The Beauty and Gift of the Human Body

In John LaBriola's book 'Onward Catholic Soldier' he defines a Sacramental as that which 'sanctifies the ordinary moments in life. God grants his grace to you through sacramentals in relation to the intensity of the faith with which you use them.' The marital embrace between a husband and wife can be an opportunity for mutual sanctification by the self-donation of each others bodies thereby making the act sacramental. In Christopher West's 'Theology of the Body Explained' he states 'The human body is the 'sacrament' of the human person in the sense that it makes the invisible mystery of the person visible....Understanding the sacramentality of the body as such is the key to opening the door to understanding the body not only as something biological but theological.' Our bodies as gifts from an almighty Creator are made to help us grow in holiness and virtue.

As I tend to always apply the Theology of the Body to the life of an athlete or 'bodybuilder' I thought to myself what does this mean to the person wishing to strengthen and enhance the beauty of his/her own body? Where is that sacramental line drawn when a man or woman enters into the weight room? Can the life of temperance and discipline bring our bodies closer to the true meaning of John Paul II's vision of the Theology of the Body? The answer is a resounding yes! Again Christopher West states it this way, 'The more we grow in mastery of ourselves, the more we experience a proper "ethos of seeing". Using JPII it continues saying 'we come to an ever greater awareness of the gratuitous beauty of the human body, of masculinity and femininity.' In other words the more we discipline our own bodies and minds in the proper view of a sacramental the more we will appreciate and admire the creation of man as man and woman as woman. The Catechism of the Catholic Church #2519 states, 'Purity of heart is the precondition of the vision of God. Even now it enables us to see according to God, to accept others as "neighbors"; it lets us perceive the human body - ours and our neighbor's - as a temple of the Holy Spirit, a manifestation of divine beauty.' In a culture where men are assailed constantly by images of women used as a means of self-gratification, purity of heart and mind is something I think all men must strive for. And women, seeing these same images have been guilt-ridden into believing that they are not beautiful or worthwhile unless they give themselves up for the pleasures of men, the purity of heart that women search for is that desire to look in the mirror and know that no matter what the world says, she is a magnificent human being and nobody can take that away from her. The purity of heart that men and women crave can be reached through the discipline of the mind, body and soul.

"Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?" - 1 Corinthians 3:16. One thing I have always heard is that the choirs of angels are only envious of human beings for one reason: The Holy Eucharist. Our bodies are the sacramental vessels in which the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of God-made-man enters into our souls. You would not want the Church you enter for the Sacrifice of the Mass to be filthy or in need of repair, parishioners pay large amounts of money to keep the parish looking at its best. In the same way, keeping our bodies pure and undefiled through healthy eating habits and an exercise regimen is like helping your Creator tie the ribbon around the gift He gives you.'For this is the Will of God, Your sanctification; that you abstain from immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor..' - 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4.

The union between our souls and our bodies is so intimate that we can participate in the spiritual through the physical and vice versa. "The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the "form" of the body: i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature." CCC#365. So, when we pray while we lift, the labor of our hands and muscles are united to that prayer just as with a sacramental. This reminds me of the beauty of incense used during Mass. We use the physical nature of heat and incense to present our prayers to God. We burn the incense so that it may rise to God, we smell the incense to enliven our senses, we see the smoke rising to the heavens, reminding us of the Divine Nature we long for, and we hear the clank of the chain as the priest swings the thurible in order to awaken our ears to the whispers of God. In a similar way we burn our muscles so that they may rise to God, we smell our body working to enliven our senses, we see the sweat falling off of our bodies, reminding us of our mortality, and we hear the clank of steel as we lift reminding us that we are at war. Our bodies truly are one of the sacramentals of our souls. 'We only have to reflect on the excellence and dignity of human nature to feel how base it is to languish in luxury and pamper ourselves in voluptuous ease, and how noble it is to lead a frugal, temperate and well-disciplined life.' - Marcus Cicero 'On Moral Duties'

The human body is the gift that our Creator has given us to worship Him. His only begotten Son took on physical human nature to show us the beauty within and nobility earned simply because we are the children of God. Through our Immaculate Mother the Savior of the world received human nature, may we see her as our example of appreciation of our physical bodies.