Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Solemnity of Saint Andrew - our Patron

Today our parish celebrates her Patronal Feast - the SOLEMNITY of Saint Andrew the Apostle, brother of Saint Peter.  On June 14, 2006, Pope Benedict spoke of our patron in his general audience.  Here is his reflection on our name-sake...

Andrew, the Protoclete 
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In the last two catecheses we spoke about the figure of St Peter. Now, in the measure that sources allow us, we want to know the other 11 Apostles a bit better. Therefore, today we shall speak of Simon Peter's brother, St Andrew, who was also one of the Twelve. 

The first striking characteristic of Andrew is his name:  it is not Hebrew, as might have been expected, but Greek, indicative of a certain cultural openness in his family that cannot be ignored. We are in Galilee, where the Greek language and culture are quite present. Andrew comes second in the list of the Twelve, as in Matthew (10: 1-4) and in Luke (6: 13-16); or fourth, as in Mark (3: 13-18) and in the Acts (1: 13-14). In any case, he certainly enjoyed great prestige within the early Christian communities. 

The kinship between Peter and Andrew, as well as the joint call that Jesus addressed to them, are explicitly mentioned in the Gospels. We read:  "As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men'" (Mt 4: 18-19; Mk 1: 16-17).

From the Fourth Gospel we know another important detail:  Andrew had previously been a disciple of John the Baptist:  and this shows us that he was a man who was searching, who shared in Israel's hope, who wanted to know better the word of the Lord, the presence of the Lord.

He was truly a man of faith and hope; and one day he heard John the Baptist proclaiming Jesus as:  "the Lamb of God" (Jn 1: 36); so he was stirred, and with another unnamed disciple followed Jesus, the one whom John had called "the Lamb of God". The Evangelist says that "they saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day..." (Jn 1: 37-39).

Thus, Andrew enjoyed precious moments of intimacy with Jesus. The account continues with one important annotation:  "One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, "We have found the Messiah' (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus" (Jn 1: 40-43), straightaway showing an unusual apostolic spirit.

Andrew, then, was the first of the Apostles to be called to follow Jesus. Exactly for this reason the liturgy of the Byzantine Church honours him with the nickname:  "Protokletos", [protoclete] which means, precisely, "the first called".

And it is certain that it is partly because of the family tie between Peter and Andrew that the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople feel one another in a special way to be Sister Churches. To emphasize this relationship, my Predecessor Pope Paul VI, in 1964, returned the important relic of St Andrew, which until then had been kept in the Vatican Basilica, to the Orthodox Metropolitan Bishop of the city of Patras in Greece, where tradition has it that the Apostle was crucified.

The Gospel traditions mention Andrew's name in particular on another three occasions that tell us something more about this man. The first is that of the multiplication of the loaves in Galilee. On that occasion, it was Andrew who pointed out to Jesus the presence of a young boy who had with him five barley loaves and two fish:  not much, he remarked, for the multitudes who had gathered in that place (cf. Jn 6: 8-9).

In this case, it is worth highlighting Andrew's realism. He noticed the boy, that is, he had already asked the question:  "but what good is that for so many?" (ibid.), and recognized the insufficiency of his minimal resources. Jesus, however, knew how to make them sufficient for the multitude of people who had come to hear him.

The second occasion was at Jerusalem. As he left the city, a disciple drew Jesus' attention to the sight of the massive walls that supported the Temple. The Teacher's response was surprising:  he said that of those walls not one stone would be left upon another. Then Andrew, together with Peter, James and John, questioned him:  "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign when these things are all to be accomplished?" (Mk 13: 1-4).

In answer to this question Jesus gave an important discourse on the destruction of Jerusalem and on the end of the world, in which he asked his disciples to be wise in interpreting the signs of the times and to be constantly on their guard.

From this event we can deduce that we should not be afraid to ask Jesus questions but at the same time that we must be ready to accept even the surprising and difficult teachings that he offers us.

Lastly, a third initiative of Andrew is recorded in the Gospels:  the scene is still Jerusalem, shortly before the Passion. For the Feast of the Passover, John recounts, some Greeks had come to the city, probably proselytes or God-fearing men who had come up to worship the God of Israel at the Passover Feast. Andrew and Philip, the two Apostles with Greek names, served as interpreters and mediators of this small group of Greeks with Jesus.

The Lord's answer to their question - as so often in John's Gospel - appears enigmatic, but precisely in this way proves full of meaning. Jesus said to the two disciples and, through them, to the Greek world:  "The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. I solemnly assure you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit" (12: 23-24).

Jesus wants to say:  Yes, my meeting with the Greeks will take place, but not as a simple, brief conversation between myself and a few others, motivated above all by curiosity. The hour of my glorification will come with my death, which can be compared with the falling into the earth of a grain of wheat. My death on the Cross will bring forth great fruitfulness:  in the Resurrection the "dead grain of wheat" - a symbol of myself crucified - will become the bread of life for the world; it will be a light for the peoples and cultures.

Yes, the encounter with the Greek soul, with the Greek world, will be achieved in that profundity to which the grain of wheat refers, which attracts to itself the forces of heaven and earth and becomes bread.

In other words, Jesus was prophesying about the Church of the Greeks, the Church of the pagans, the Church of the world, as a fruit of his Pasch.

Some very ancient traditions not only see Andrew, who communicated these words to the Greeks, as the interpreter of some Greeks at the meeting with Jesus recalled here, but consider him the Apostle to the Greeks in the years subsequent to Pentecost. They enable us to know that for the rest of his life he was the preacher and interpreter of Jesus for the Greek world.

Peter, his brother, travelled from Jerusalem through Antioch and reached Rome to exercise his universal mission; Andrew, instead, was the Apostle of the Greek world. So it is that in life and in death they appear as true brothers - a brotherhood that is symbolically expressed in the special reciprocal relations of the See of Rome and of Constantinople, which are truly Sister Churches.

A later tradition, as has been mentioned, tells of Andrew's death at Patras, where he too suffered the torture of crucifixion. At that supreme moment, however, like his brother Peter, he asked to be nailed to a cross different from the Cross of Jesus. In his case it was a diagonal or X-shaped cross, which has thus come to be known as "St Andrew's cross".

This is what the Apostle is claimed to have said on that occasion, according to an ancient story (which dates back to the beginning of the sixth century), entitled The Passion of Andrew: 
"Hail, O Cross, inaugurated by the Body of Christ and adorned with his limbs as though they were precious pearls. Before the Lord mounted you, you inspired an earthly fear. Now, instead, endowed with heavenly love, you are accepted as a gift.

"Believers know of the great joy that you possess, and of the multitude of gifts you have prepared. I come to you, therefore, confident and joyful, so that you too may receive me exultant as a disciple of the One who was hung upon you.... O blessed Cross, clothed in the majesty and beauty of the Lord's limbs!... Take me, carry me far from men, and restore me to my Teacher, so that, through you, the one who redeemed me by you, may receive me. Hail, O Cross; yes, hail indeed!".

Here, as can be seen, is a very profound Christian spirituality. It does not view the Cross as an instrument of torture but rather as the incomparable means for perfect configuration to the Redeemer, to the grain of wheat that fell into the earth.

Here we have a very important lesson to learn:  our own crosses acquire value if we consider them and accept them as a part of the Cross of Christ, if a reflection of his light illuminates them. 

It is by that Cross alone that our sufferings too are ennobled and acquire their true meaning.
The Apostle Andrew, therefore, teaches us to follow Jesus with promptness (cf. Mt 4: 20; Mk 1: 18), to speak enthusiastically about him to those we meet, and especially, to cultivate a relationship of true familiarity with him, acutely aware that in him alone can we find the ultimate meaning of our life and death.

Total Consecration to Mary - Day 26

As we celebrate our parish feastday - Saint Andrew the Apostle - we, like him, gather in prayer with Mary asking her intercession and awaiting the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on our lives...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Total Consecration to Mary - Day 25

If you are faithful to this consecration, you will draw closer to the Holy Spirit, knowing your own weakness and need for God...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Vigil for all Nascent Life

On Saturday evening, St Peter’s Basilica was the focal point for a global event, a vigil of prayer for nascent life.  The first of its kind and expressly wanted by Pope Benedict XVI, the event involved the universal Church, with Catholics coming together in prayer in their homes, parishes, religious communities and cathedrals across the world.

In his homily, Pope Benedict said: “there are cultural tendencies that seek to anesthetize consciences with misleading motivations.  With regard to the embryo in the womb, science itself highlights its autonomy capable of interaction with the mother, the coordination of biological processes, the continuity of development, the growing complexity of the organism.  This is not an accumulation of biological material, but a new living being, dynamic and wonderfully ordered, a new unique human being”.

He also warned against the “darkening of consciences” towards the innate value of life, affirming that the unborn child “has the right not to be treated as an object of possession or something to manipulate at will, not to be reduced to a mere instrument for the benefit of others and their interests.  The human person is a good in and of himself and his integral development should always be sought”.

Here is a draft Vatican Radio translation of the Holy Father’s homily for First Vespers of the first Sunday of Advent:

Dear brothers and sisters,

With this evening's celebration, the Lord gives us the grace and joy of opening the new liturgical year beginning with its first stage: Advent, the period that commemorates the coming of God among us.  Every beginning brings a special grace, because it is blessed by the Lord.  In this Advent period we will once again experience the closeness of the One who created the world, who guides history and cared for us to the point of becoming a man.  This great and fascinating mystery of God with us, moreover of God who becomes one of us, is what we celebrate in the coming weeks journeying towards holy Christmas.  During the season of Advent we feel the Church that takes us by the hand and - in the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary - expresses her motherhood allowing us to experience the joyful expectation of the coming of the Lord, who embraces us all in his love that saves and consoles.

While our hearts reach out towards the annual celebration of the birth of Christ, the Church's liturgy directs our gaze to the final goal: our encounter with the Lord in the splendor of glory.  This is why we, in every Eucharist, "announce his death, proclaim his resurrection until he comes again" we hold vigil in prayer.  The liturgy does not cease to encourage and support us, putting on our lips, in the days of Advent, the cry with which the whole Bible concludes, the last page of the Revelation of Saint John: "Come, Lord Jesus "(22:20).
Dear brothers and sisters, our coming together this evening to begin the Advent journey is enriched by another important reason: with the entire Church, we want to solemnly celebrate a prayer vigil for unborn life.  I wish to express my thanks to all who have taken up this invitation and those who are specifically dedicated to welcoming and safeguarding human life in different situations of fragility, especially in its early days and in its early stages.  The beginning of the liturgical year helps us to relive the expectation of God made flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, God who makes himself small, He becomes a child, it speaks to us of the coming of a God who is near, who wanted to experience the life of man, from the very beginning, to save it completely, fully.  And so the mystery of the Incarnation of the Lord and the beginning of human life are intimately connected and in harmony with each other within the one saving plan of God, the Lord of life of each and every one of us.  The Incarnation reveals to us, with intense light and in an amazing way, that every human life has an incomparable, a most elevated dignity.

Man has an unmistakable originality compared to all other living beings that inhabit the earth.  He presents himself as a unique and singular entity, endowed with intelligence and free will, as well as being composed of a material reality.  He lives simultaneously and inseparably in the spiritual dimension and the corporal dimension.  This is also suggested in the text of the First letter to the Thessalonians which was just proclaimed: "May the God of peace himself - St. Paul writes - make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ "(5:23).  Therefore, we are spirit, soul and body. We are part of this world, tied to the possibilities and limits of our material condition, at the same time we are open to an infinite horizon, able to converse with God and to welcome Him in us.  We operate in earthly realities and through them we can perceive the presence of God and seek Him, truth, goodness and absolute beauty.  We savour fragments of life and happiness and we long for total fulfilment.

God loves us so deeply, totally, without distinction, He calls us to friendship with him, He makes us part of a reality beyond all imagination, thought and word; His own divine life.  With emotion and gratitude we acknowledge the value of the incomparable dignity of every human person and the great responsibility we have toward all.  "Christ, the final Adam, " - says the Second Vatican Council - "by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear.... by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man. "(Gaudium et Spes, 22).

Believing in Jesus Christ also means having a new outlook on man, a look of trust and hope.  Moreover, experience itself and reason show that the human being is a subject capable of discernment, self-conscious and free, unique and irreplaceable, the summit of all earthly things, that must be recognized in his innate value and always accepted with respect and love.  He has the right not to be treated as an object of possession or something to manipulate at will, not to be reduced to a mere instrument for the benefit of others and their interests.  The human person is a good in and of himself and his integral development should always be sought.  Love for all, if it is sincere, naturally tends to become a preferential attention to the weakest and poorest.  In this vein we find the Church's concern for the unborn, the most fragile, the most threatened by the selfishness of adults and the darkening of consciences.  The Church continually reiterates what was declared by the Second Vatican Council against abortion and all violations of unborn life: "from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care " (ibid., n. 51).

There are cultural tendencies that seek to anesthetize consciences with misleading motivations.  With regard to the embryo in the womb, science itself highlights its autonomy capable of interaction with the mother, the coordination of biological processes, the continuity of development, the growing complexity of the organism.  This is not an accumulation of biological material, but a new living being, dynamic and wonderfully ordered, a new unique human being.  So was Jesus in Mary's womb, so it was for all of us in our mother’s womb.  With the ancient Christian writer Tertullian we can say: " he who will be a man is already one" (Apologeticum IX, 8), there is no reason not to consider him a person from conception.
Unfortunately, even after birth, the lives of children continue to be exposed to abandonment, hunger, poverty, disease, abuse, violence or exploitation.  The many violations of their rights that are committed in the world sorely hurt the conscience of every man of good will.  Before the sad landscape of the injustices committed against human life, before and after birth, I make mine Pope John Paul II’s passionate appeal to the responsibility of each and every individual: " respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life! Only in this direction will you find justice, development, true freedom, peace and happiness!"(Encyclical Evangelium vitae, 5).  I urge the protagonists of politics, economic and social communications to do everything in their power to promote a culture which respects human life, to provide favorable conditions and support networks for the reception and development of life.

To the Virgin Mary, who welcomed the Son of God made man with faith, with her maternal womb, with loving care, with nurturing support and vibrant with love, we entrust our commitment and prayer in favour of unborn life.  We do in the liturgy - which is the place where we live the truth and where truth lives with us - worshiping the divine Eucharist, we contemplate Christ's body, that body who took flesh from Mary by the Holy Spirit, and from her was born in Bethlehem for our salvation. Ave, verum Corpus, natum de Maria Virgine!

Total Consecration to Mary - Day 24

This is not an easy way - but it is a sure way, for it is the way Jesus Himself chose - to enter the world through Mary...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Let's do Advent Different This Year

This Advent, let’s not just put an Advent wreath out as a decoration. Let’s really do Advent.
Let’s gather family or friends each week of the Advent season and pray that beautiful ritual together.

We can do this.  And we don’t have to be embarrassed about it, either.

Let’s pick a day of the week and a time that works for the folks we’d like to join us.  We might have to say something like, “Hey, remember praying around the Advent wreath when we were kids? Let’s do that again this year.”  Let’s invite friends, neighbors, co-workers, grandparents, children and grandchildren.

Keep it short and sweet

Our Advent wreath ceremony ­doesn’t have to be a major production — 10, 15 minutes max.
That’s not too much to ask.  And it’s pretty simple.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has, on their website, an online Advent Calendar with prayers and Scripture that you can use to make it easy for you to pray every day of the Advent Season.  Check it out at: www.usccb.org/advent.  Each day has suggestions for what to read & pray, has a suggestion for a reflection and action.

And why?  Because it will be the first step in observing, living and celebrating the new church year.  Because it will get us started remembering our call to holiness.

And just think: If we do Advent right — if we prepare the way of the Lord in our own lives, in our own households, in our own communities — Christmas, this year, may just be less about presents and more about the gift that we all received with the birth of the Child Jesus.

Advent Week 1 — Nov. 28

The following Advent Wreath prayer is intended to help busy households make Advent a prayerful time during the rush of Christmas preparations. The language is fairly simple, to be used by groups of adults or adults with children. Sharing the task of proclaiming the readings will allow for participation by a variety of members of the household.

Leader: Today begins a special time of year for us. This week we begin the season of Advent — that period of preparation and waiting before Christmas.

In order to help each of us prepare our own hearts for the birth of Christ, we take these few moments each week to pray together.

(Light the first candle on the Advent wreath.)

(Optional) read aloud any or all of the following: Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24: 37-44.

Leader: Did you hear the siren? Did the alarm go off for you? The readings that the church has chosen for this first Sunday of Advent are clear as a bell.

It’s a message that has been the same for centuries: You’d better get ready if you know what’s good for you! The prophet Isaiah lets the Israelites know that change is coming, and they are going to like it, because it is going to be a time of peace, a time when all will walk in the light of the Lord.

The evangelist Paul sounds the alarm, too. Paul tells the people of his day they’d better wake up and start acting right if they want to walk in the light of Christ. Matthew’s Gospel brings us that message, too.

“Stay awake,” he quotes Jesus, and you’d better have your life in order because you don’t know when your time will be up and you will be judged for how you lived.

Closing prayer: (Leader may read all, or others in the household may each read a segment.)

Dear God, help us to be ready to walk in your light. This first week of Advent, help us prepare our minds and our hearts to follow the teachings of your son, Jesus.

Holy Spirit, guide the choices we make throughout this week so that we choose to do what honors our creator and what shows our love of others.

Father in heaven, we offer thanks to you for the many reminders you send us to prepare our lives so that we are able to spend eternity with you in heaven.

Come, Lord Jesus. Come into our hearts, so that when the time comes, we will be prepared to join you in everlasting joy.


Total Consecration to Mary - Day 23

Join Bishop McFadden in prayer as we make this special consecration - that we might live our Baptismal promises even more completely.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday - the TRUE "Reason for the Season"?

The late autumn and early winter has always been one of my favorite times of year.  The warm glow of the sparkling lights which pop up just about everywhere this time of year always serve to lift up my spirit and bring on some much needed cheer!  In fact – just about the only thing I don’t like about this time of year is the proverbial “Christmas rush”. It always seems that no matter who you are talking to, people have about twice as many things to do – from shopping for presents, to visiting friends and family, to planning celebrations – then there are hours in the day.  This hustle and bustle, of course, is just about the exact opposite of what the Church is encouraging us to do liturgically at this time of year: rather then the bright colors of red, white and green, the colors of Advent are a somber purple.  In place of a myriad of bright lights, the Advent Wreath’s glow emanates from only four candles.  Instead of mad rushes and impending deadlines, the words that Scripture speak of at this time are ones of longing and anticipation.  When compared with the frenetic pace of today’s “holiday season”, in its liturgies, the Church’s wisely reminds us that these weeks before Christmas should not be “rushed” but instead should serve as a time of preparation for the coming of – not Santa Claus – but instead of the Prince of Peace.
Reminders like these are increasingly important for all of us – especially since it is so easy to get caught up in all of the seductive hoopla that surrounds the holiday.  With Advent beginning in just days, many people would not identify with the term “First Monday of Advent” as quickly as they would with another: “Cyber Monday” – a marketing term first created by the National Retail Federation to denote the Monday immediately following the more famous “Black Friday” – itself the name for the Friday that follows Thanksgiving Day in the United States, and which officially starts the Christmas “Shopping Season” when retailers see their balance sheets go from ”red” to “black”. Both of these days have little or nothing to do with spiritually preparing one’s self for the birthday of the Prince of Peace (which ironically is the reason that these two days exist in the first place); instead, they are about “helping Santa” materially fill the space under the tree with more and bigger gifts. That what was originally the season of Advent has been transmogrified into an over-marketed, commercialized, $450 billion orgy of consumption needs no further demonstration – other than the fact that it has now creeped into Thanksgiving Day itself - many stores (including Kmart here in Waynesboro) opening on Thanksgiving!  How terrible is that?  To take people away from their families - removing any opportunity to rest and give thanks to God with family and friends.  It's terrible!

You know, it really doesn’t have to be this way, and saying no to the over-consumption that today marks the run-up to Christmas does not require a Grinch-like renunciation of any gift giving at all.

As Advent gets underway, we have to be careful - yes there is lots to do to prepare for Christmas, but don't forget what this season of Advent is really all about - preparing for Christ!  Your parish family is trying to help by offering Sunday Vespers every Sunday at 7pm during Advent and Christmas - to help us stay focused on "Christ our Light" instead of the "Blue Light Special" of the day.  The Church's advise to each of us?  Slow down a little, experience Advent and prepare yourself spiritually for the coming of the Prince of Peace – after all, let’s not forget that His birthday really is the “reason for the season.”

Total Consecration to Mary - Day 22

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Day

The tradition of eating goose as part of the Martin's Day celebration was kept in Holland even after the Reformation. It was there that the Pilgrims who sailed to the New World in 1620 became familiar with this ancient harvest festival. When, after one year in America, they decided to celebrate a three days' thanksgiving in the autumn of 1621, they went in search of geese for their feast. We know that they also had deer (a present from the Indians), lobsters, oysters, and fish. But Edward Winslow, in his account of the feast, only mentions that "Governor Bradford sent four men on fowling that so we might after a more special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruit of our labours." They actually did find some wild geese, and a number of wild turkeys and ducks as well. 
The Pilgrim Fathers, therefore, in serving wild turkeys with the geese, inaugurated one of the most cherished American traditions: the turkey dinner on Thanksgiving Day. They also drank, according to the ancient European tradition, the first wine of their wild-grape harvest. Pumpkin pie and cranberries were not part of the first Thanksgiving dinner in America, but were introduced many years afterward.

The second Thanksgiving Day in the New World was held by the Pilgrims two years later, on July 30, 1623. It was formally proclaimed by the governor as a day of prayer to thank God for their deliverance from drought and starvation, and for the safe arrival from Holland of the ship Anne.

In 1665 Connecticut proclaimed a solemn day of thanksgiving to be kept annually on the last Wednesday in October. Other New England colonies held occasional and local Thanksgivings at various times. In 1789 the federal Congress authorized and requested President George Washington to proclaim a day of thanksgiving for the whole nation. Washington did this in a message setting aside November 26, 1789 as National Thanksgiving Day.

After 1789 the celebration reverted to local and regional observance for almost a hundred years. There grew, however, a strong desire among the majority of the people for a national Thanksgiving Day that would unite all Americans in a festival of gratitude and public acknowledgment for all the blessings God had conferred upon the nation. It was not until October 3, 1863, that this was accomplished, when President Abraham Lincoln issued, in the midst of the Civil War, a Thanksgiving Proclamation. In it the last Thursday of November was set apart for that purpose and made a national holiday.

Since then, every president has followed Lincoln's example, and annually proclaims as a "Day of Thanksgiving" the fourth Thursday in November. Only President Franklin D. Roosevelt changed the date, in 1939, from the fourth to the third Thursday of November (to extend the time of Christmas sales). This caused so much consternation and protest that in 1941 the traditional date was restored."

Exerpted from the Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, Francis X. Weiser

Thanksgiving Day Prayer:
Father in Heaven, Creator of all and source of all goodness and love, please look kindly upon us and receive our heartfelt gratitude in this time of giving thanks.

Thank you for all the graces and blessings.  You have betowed upon us, spiritual and temporal: our faith and religious heritage.  Our food and shelter, our health, the loves we have for one another, our family and friends.

Dear Father, in Your infinite generosity, please grant us continued graces and blessing  throughout the coming year.

This we ask in the Name of Jesus, Your Son and our Brother.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Message from Bishop McFadden

Holy Father Elevates 2 Americans to College of Cardinals

US newly appointed cardinal Donald William Wuerl (left) is congratulated by Cardinal Keeler (our former bishop) and other cardinals after receiving his birettafrom Pope Benedict XVI on November 20, at St Peter's basilica at The Vatican.
Pope Benedict installed 24 new Roman Catholic cardinals from around the world on Saturday in his latest batch of appointments that could include his successor as leader of the 1.2 billion member church.  As their national delegations cheered, the men were elevated to their new rank as top advisers to the pope at a solemn ceremony in St Peter's Basilica known as a consistory. Each of the 24 men swore their loyalty to him, to future popes and to the church, even if it meant giving their lives.  Twenty of the new cardinals are under 80 and thus eligible under church rules to take part in the conclave that chooses a successor after the death or resignation of the current pope.

Newly-appointed US Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, left, hugs Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo during a consistory inside St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010.
The new cardinals include Archbishop Raymond Burke (the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura - the Church's highest court of Canon Law) and Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C., who, as a senior figure in the American capital, will likely play a leading role in the U.S. church's response to the sexual abuse scandal.

At a pre-consistory meeting on Friday, the Vatican told bishops they would have to take more responsibility to prevent sexual abuse of children by priests and said it was preparing new guidelines for bishops on how to deal with the sexual abuse, including cooperation with local authorities.

The German pope has now named 50 of the 121 electors who can pick his successor from among their own ranks, raising the possibility that the next pontiff will be a conservative in Benedict's own image.

In his homily before he bestowed each new cardinal with the red hat of their office, known as a berretta (which signifies the blood of the martyrs), Benedict told them their role was "not to be served, but to serve" and urged them to shun "the logic of power" for the "logic of the cross."

Below is a video showing various images of the Consistory.

Total Consecration to Mary - Day 20

Bishop Joseph McFadden is encouraging Catholics to take part in the Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary devotion. Join him for day 20 of this beautiful exercise to increase your spirituality and ability to truly serve our Lord Jesus Christ. This video contains a daily reading and prayers. More information is available at www.hbgdiocese.org

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro - Viva Cristo Rey!

Born on January 13, 1891 in Guadalupe, Mexico, Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez was the eldest son of Miguel Pro and Josefa Juarez. 

Miguelito, as his doting family called him, was, from an early age, intensely spiritual and equally intense in hi mischievousness, frequently exasperating his family with his humor and practical jokes.  As a child, he had a daring precociousness that sometimes went too far, tossing him into near-death accidents and illnesses.  On regaining consciousness after one of these episodes, young Miguel opened his eyes and blurted out to his frantic parents, "I want some cocol" (a colloquial term for his favorite sweet bread). " Cocol" became his nickname, which he would later adopt as a code name during this clandestine ministry. 

Miguel was particularly close to his older sister and after she entered a cloistered convent, he came to recognize his own vocation to the priesthood.  Although he was popular with the senoritas and had prospects of a lucrative career managing his father's thriving business concerns, Miguel renounced everything for Christ his King and entered the Jesuit novitiate in El Llano, Michoacan in 1911. 

He studied in Mexico until 1914, when a tidal wave of anti-Catholicism crashed down upon Mexico, forcing the novitiate to disband and flee to the United States, where Miguel and his brother seminarians treked through Texas and New Mexico before arriving at the Jesuit house in Los Gatos, California. 

In 1915, Miguel was sent to a seminary in Spain, where he remained until 1924, when he went to Belgium for his ordination to the priesthood in 1925.  Miguel suffered from a severe stomach problem and after three operations, when his health did not improve, his superiors, in 1926, allowed him to return to Mexico in spite of the grave religious persecution in that country. 

The churches were closed and priests went into hiding.  Miguel spent the rest of his life in a secret ministry to the sturdy Mexican Catholics.  In addition to fulfilling their spiritual needs, he also carried out the works of mercy by assisting the poor in Mexico City with their temporal needs.  He adopted many interesting disguises in carrying out his secret ministry.  He would come in the middle of the night dressed as a beggar to baptize infants, bless marriages and celebrate Mass. He would appear in jail dressed as a police officer to bring Holy Viaticum to condemned Catholics.  When going to fashionable neighborhoods to procure for the poor, he would show up at the doorstep dressed as a fashionable businessman with a fresh flower on his lapel.  His many exploits could rival those of the most daring spies.  In all that he did, however, Fr. Pro remained obedient to his superiors and was filled with the joy of serving Christ, his King. 

Falsely accused in the bombing attempt on a former Mexican president, Miguel became a wanted man.  Betrayed to the police, he was sentenced to death without the benefit of any legal process. 

On the day of his execution, Fr. Pro forgave his executtioners, prayed, bravely refused the blindfold and died proclaiming, "Viva Cristo Rey", "Long live Christ the King!"

Total Consecration to Mary - Day 19

Bishop Joseph McFadden is encouraging Catholics to take part in the Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary devotion. Join him for day 19 of this beautiful exercise to increase your spirituality and ability to truly serve our Lord Jesus Christ. This video contains a daily reading and prayers. More information is available at www.hbgdiocese.org

Monday, November 22, 2010

Saint Cecilia

Saint Cecilia is said to have heard heavenly music inside her heart when she was forced to marry the pagan, Valerian.  A wealth of music, art and festivals in honor of St. Cecilia has grown from this little bit of information from her biography.   She is the acclaimed patron saint of music, especially church music, as well as that of musicians, composers, instrument makers and poets. The name Cecilia means blind and so, although we don't know if she herself couldn't see, she is also the Catholic patron saint of the blind.

It is believed that St. Cecilia was born in the 2nd or 3d century A.D., although the dates of her birth and martyrdom are unknown.  A religious romance telling the love story of Saint Cecilia and Valerian appeared in Greece during the 4th century A.D., and there is a biography of St Cecilia dating from the 5th century A.D.  She is purported to have been the daughter of a wealthy Roman family, a Christian from birth, who was promised in marriage to a pagan named Valerian.  Cecilia, however, had vowed her virginity to God, and wore sackcloth, fasted and prayed in hopes of keeping this promise.  Saint Cecilia disclosed her wishes to her husband on their wedding night.  She told Valerian that an angel watched over her to guard her purity.  He wanted to see the angel, so St. Cecilia sent him to Pope Urban(223-230).  Accounts of how and when Valerian saw the angel vary, but one states that he was baptized by the Pope, and, upon his return to Saint Cecilia, they were both given heavenly crowns by an angel.  Another version recounts that Tibertius, Valerian's brother, sees the crowns and he too is converted.

The two brothers then make it their mission to bury Christian martyrs put to death by the prefect of the city.  In turn, they were brought in front of the prefect and sentenced to death by the sword.  Cecilia, in the meantime, continued to make many conversions, and prepared to have her home preserved as a church at her death.  Finally, she too was arrested and brought before the prefect.  He ruled that she should die by suffocation in the baths.  Saint Cecilia was locked into the bathhouse and the fires vigorously stoked.  She remained there for a day and a night but was still alive when the soldiers opened the doors.  She was then ordered beheaded, but the executioner, after striking three times without severing St Cecilia's head, ran away, leaving her badly wounded.

St. Cecilia hung onto life for three days after the mortal blows, preaching all the while.  She made many more conversions and people came to soak up her flowing blood with sponges and cloths.  There exists in Rome a church in St. Cecilia's honor that dates from about the fifth century.  Her relics were believed to have been found by Pope Paschal I in 821 A.D., in the cemetery of St. Celestas.  These remains were exhumed in 1599, when Cardinal Paul Emilius Sfondrati rebuilt the church of St. Cecilia, and said to be incorrupt.

Saint Cecilia by Raphael
St. Cecilia's following flourished during the Middle Ages in Europe.  Songs were sung in her name, poetry was written, paintings with St. Cecilia as the subject were created, and her feast day, on November 22 was happily celebrated.  She continued to be a popular topic for the arts well into the 18th century.  Hans Memling, in 1470, painted St. Cecilia playing the organ at the mystical marriage of Catherine of Alexandria.  In 1584 she was named patroness of the academy of music founded in Rome.  Raphael painted her at Bologna, Rubens at Berlin and Domenichino in Paris.  Chaucer commemorates her in his Second Nun's Tale and Handel set John Dryden's "Ode to Saint Ceclia" to music in 1736.  Never was so much made of such a tiny bit of pseudo-biographical information.  St. Cecilia, said to have heard heavenly music at one moment of her life, became the patroness of all western music.  Even the Andrews sisters, in 1941, recorded a song, "The Shrine of St. Cecilia."

The Saint Cecilia medal, typically features her at the organ, the traditional instrument of the Catholic Church, sometimes with angelic hosts gathered around her.  St. Cecilia societies still flourish around the world, often sponsoring musical events and contests.  There is a beautiful St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha, Nebraska, the diocese of which claims her as their patron saint.  In fact, anyone involved with Church music will know of the feast day of Saint Cecilia and what it represents.  Prayers to her ask God's blessings on musicians and the hymns they proclaim to Him.  Musician or not in her real life, St. Cecilia, by her devout, musical followings has certainly earned the right to be called the patroness of music.

Total Consecration to Mary - Day 18

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Christ the King

As we celebrate the Kingship of Christ, what a great witness that - no matter who we are - the Lord shall reign for ever and ever...  A "Random Act of Culture" that took place at Macy's in Philadelphia on October 30.  Awesome!!

Total Consecration to Mary - Day 17

Bishop Joseph McFadden is encouraging Catholics to take part in the Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary devotion. Join him for day 17 of this beautiful exercise to increase your spirituality and ability to truly serve our Lord Jesus Christ. This video contains a daily reading and prayers. More information is available at www.hbgdiocese.org

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Total Consecration - Day 16

Bishop Joseph McFadden is encouraging Catholics to take part in the Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary devotion. Join him for day 16 of this beautiful exercise to increase your spirituality and ability to truly serve our Lord Jesus Christ. This video contains a daily reading and prayers. More information is available at www.hbgdiocese.org

Joan Felix

Mrs. Joan Helena (Kaiser) Felix, 89, of 211 Park Street, Waynesboro, PA, entered into eternal rest at 4:32 P.M., Wednesday, November 17, 2010 in Quincy Village, Quincy, PA.

She was born July 12, 1921 in New Oxford, PA; she was the daughter of the late James C. and Annie R. (Moore) Kaiser. She spent her early life in New Oxford.

Mrs. Felix was a graduate of Central Catholic High School, McSherrystown, PA, with the Class of 1939. She later received her nursing degree from Misreicordia Hospital in Philadelphia with the class of 1944.

She and her husband, the late Mr. Raymond A. Felix, were married February 3, 1945 in New Oxford, PA. They moved to their present residence in 1959. Mr. Felix died December 8, 1987.

Mrs. Felix was employed as a nurse at South Mountain Restoration Center, South Mountain, PA, retiring after many years of service.

She was a member of St. Andrew Catholic Church, William Max McLaughlin VFW Post #695 Ladies Auxiliary where she served as Past President, B.P.O. Elks Lodge #731 Ladies Auxiliary, the former North Chapter AARP, all of Waynesboro, National AARP and the AFSCME, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Mrs. Felix enjoyed traveling, playing cards and bowling.

She is survived by four children, Suzanne M. Trobaugh of Waynesboro, Robert F. Felix of Coventry CT, Jean L. (wife of Dick) Rose, Waynesboro and Teresa A. Robinson of Ft. Walton Beach, FL; 12 grandchildren; 29 great-grandchildren; two sisters, Rita Cole of Hanover, PA and Martha Sunbury of McSherrystown, PA; one brother, Joseph E. Kaiser of Corpus Christi, TX; and a number of nieces and nephews.

In addition to her parents and husband, she was preceded in death by a brother, John Kaiser.

Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10:00 A.M. Tuesday, November 23, 2010 in St. Andrew Catholic Church, 12 North Broad Street, Waynesboro with Father Joseph C. Carolin as celebrant (since Mrs. Felix worked with Fr. Carolin at South Mountain Restoration Center). Burial will follow in Immaculate Conception Cemetery, New Oxford, PA.

The family will receive friends from 6 to 8 P.M Monday in Grove-Bowersox Funeral Home, 50 South Broad Street, Waynesboro.  A Scripture Service will be held at 7:45pm with the Rev. John Bateman officiating.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to St. Andrew Catholic School, 213 East Main Street, Waynesboro PA 17268 or Lutheran Home Care & Hospice, 2700 Luther Drive, Chambersburg, PA 17202.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Aiming High: How to Grow in Virtue

Aiming High: How to Grow in Virtue


If we are aiming to live virtuously in our marriages, families, and friendships, we need much more than sporadic good deeds or occasional acts of kindness when we happen to be in a good mood.

I was nervous about pulling the trigger. I had never used a shotgun before, but my friend took me shooting skeet – clay discs that are thrown into the air as moving targets. My friend, who was a good marksman, shot the first several rounds and then asked if I wanted to try. Bang! On my very first shot, I knocked it down.
Someone watching me at that moment might have been very impressed. "Wow, he hit it on the first try! He must be a lot better than that first guy!" However, one good shot does not make a good marksman. A good marksman possesses the ability to use a shotgun well and hit his target consistently and easily. I, on the other hand, barely knew what I was doing. My next 25 shots made that evident: They were all embarrassing misses, widely off the mark.

If we are aiming to live virtuously in our marriages, families, and friendships, we need much more than sporadic good deeds or occasional acts of kindness when we happen to be in a good mood. In this reflection, we will consider three key characteristics of virtue that are crucial for living our relationships on target, the way God intended for us. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the virtuous man does what is good consistently, easily, and joyfully.

Three Characteristics of Virtue
  1. Consistency. First, the Catechism defines virtue as "an habitual and firm disposition to do the good" (no. 1803). This tells us that virtue requires much more than performing good deeds every once in a while. After all, it is easy to be generous, patient, and kind to others when things are going well in our life: when we're feeling good and enjoying the people we're with. But will we be generous, patient, and kind to the person who happens to be frustrating us right now? Will we be virtuous with our spouse when we're tired? Will we be virtuous with our children when we're experiencing stress at work or feeling overwhelmed in life? The virtuous man is someone you can count on to give the best of himself consistently, no matter what the circumstances may be.
  2. Ease. Virtue also enables a man to perform good acts easily (Catechism, no. 1804). He does what is good promptly, as if it is second nature for him. Just as a professional basketball player drives to the basket and sinks a lay-up without having to think much about it, so too the virtuous man performs good acts easily without extraordinary effort, deliberation, or internal struggle. Doing what is good is so deeply ingrained in him that his virtuous deeds seem automatic. On the other hand, to the extent that a man struggles in being cheerful, humble, or pure, for example, to that extent he is lacking in virtue.
  3. Joy. Finally, the virtuous man does not just do what is right. He does it joyfully (Catechism, no. 1804). He takes delight in the good, even if it is difficult to achieve or causes him suffering. The virtuous man does not complain or feel sorry for himself when he does what is right. He finds a deeper joy in living the way God made him to live, which is to do the good no matter what the cost.

Teeing Off
A helpful exercise is to consider your most important relationships and ask yourself, "Which vices are keeping me from loving these people more?"
Let us consider an analogy from sports. A professional golfer such as Jack Nicklaus possessed a high degree of skill that made him an excellent golfer. He knew which club to use, had a great swing, and had good judgment about how to hit the ball. Therefore, he could hit the ball straight down the fairway with ease. He also hit the ball consistently right where he wanted it, and he found joy in playing the game well.
I, on the other hand, am not a good golfer. I rarely play, and when I do, it is abundantly clear that I do not possess the skills of golfing. It is not easy for me to golf well. Even if I do occasionally hit the ball where I want it, I am far from consistent in doing so. And since I am so poor at this sport, there usually is not much joy when I play!

Personal Virtue Assessment
With this background, we are now prepared to ask ourselves, "To what degree am I really living the virtues?"

For example, do I have the virtue of generosity? The man who puts a$1,000 check into the collection basket one Sunday may be performing a good and noble act, but that alone would not necessarily mean he possesses the virtue of generosity. Some people can give money to a charitable organization, but fail to give personal time, attention, and care to the people right in their own lives. The truly generous man, however, gives of himself – not just when it is convenient for him, but consistently. He also gives promptly, easily, and joyfully, without having to calculate the cost or wrestle with his selfishness. For a generous man, giving of himself is second nature to him.

Similarly, do I have the virtue of patience? The patient mother, for example, can remain calm with her children not only when they are behaving well and the day is moving along smoothly, but even when the kids are having a breakdown and the schedule for the day has been turned completely upside down. Though she may experience stress and sorrow over the way things are going (which would be quite natural!), she does not allow that sadness to take over. Her patience enables her to maintain a certain interior peace and carry out her responsibilities as a mother well, despite the chaos around her.

The standards of virtue are high. The more we learn about the virtues, the more we realize how far off the mark we are. But this should not discourage us. The Church offers much wisdom on practical ways we can grow in virtue, increasing the capacity within us to do the good with consistency, ease, and joy.

How to Grow in Virtue
First, we must examine our lives and discern the main weaknesses keeping us from living our relationships with excellence. These weaknesses are called vices – the bad habits formed through repeated sin. 

A helpful exercise is to consider your most important relationships and ask yourself, "Which vices are keeping me from loving these people more?" Are you selfish with your spouse, tending to think more about yourself than serving his or her needs? Do you lose your patience often with your children? Are you "too busy" to give God your time in prayer each day?
The best way to conquer vice in our lives is not merely to try to avoid sin, but to try to put into practice the particular virtue that opposes the vice we're trying to conquer. For example, if I often say critical things about other people, I should make it a point to honor others each day. If I tend to procrastinate, I should start certain projects at work earlier than necessary in order to combat my procrastination.

If I tend to be self-centered and want to have my own way in my home, I should purposely find out what my spouse's and children's needs and preferences are and pursue those instead of my own. By positively practicing the virtues that oppose my vices, I can begin to overcome the weaknesses that prevent me from giving the best of myself in my relationships.

Practice Makes Perfect?
Given our fallen human nature, we will always struggle with an inclination toward sin. This is why we need to reach out to a power outside of us that can enable us to live the virtues in a way we could never do on our own.
Such a program of virtue training, however, will not be easy. As the Catechism explains, "The removal of the ingrained disposition to sin . . . requires much effort and self-denial, until the contrary virtue is acquired." Therefore, we should not be discouraged if we do not notice immediate results. Growing in virtue is like strengthening our bodies' muscles. When an out-of-shape 40-year-old man first starts jogging, he probably will not find running three miles a day to be easy. In the beginning, it will be quite painful. But over time, the jogger who consistently runs several times a week builds up his muscles and stamina. With much practice, a three-mile run eventually becomes a lot easier.

Similarly, strengthening our moral muscles – the virtues – takes time and effort. We might experience tremendous difficulty and failure when we first start battling against our vices. The unchaste man will struggle against impurity for a long time. But if he perseveres in the struggle, chaste living eventually will get easier for him as his moral muscles strengthen. The man who suddenly decides to start praying every day most likely is not going to find it easy to do. But if he practices daily prayer for many weeks and months, prayer will gradually become more natural for him.

The key here is perseverance. If the beginning jogger quits after two weeks because it is too difficult, he will never be able to make a three-mile run easily. Similarly, if we give up the battle for virtue because it is too hard, we will only remain enslaved in our vices and never be able to give the best of ourselves to our God, spouse, children, and friends.

Amazing Grace
Nevertheless, no matter how much we pursue virtue, we will still run up against our own limitations. Most of us have weaknesses that have plagued us for many years, no matter how hard we have tried to overcome them. Given our fallen human nature, we will always struggle with an inclination toward sin. This is why we need to reach out to a power outside of us that can enable us to live the virtues in a way we could never do on our own. That power is found in Jesus Christ. As the Catechism explains, "Christ's gift of salvation offers us the grace necessary to persevere in the pursuit of the virtues"(no. 1811).

Sanctifying grace is Christ's divine life in us, transforming our selfish hearts with the supernatural love of Christ Himself. The more we grow in Christ's grace, the more we are able to love supernaturally – above and beyond what our weak human nature could ever do on its own.

This is why it is essential to seek grace in prayer and the sacraments. With Christ's divine life dwelling in us, our natural virtues are elevated to participate in Christ's life. With grace, we can begin to be patient with Christ's patience. We can begin to be humble with Christ's humility. And we can begin to love with Christ's divine love working through us. When grace starts to transform our lives, we can begin to say with St. Paul that "it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me"(Gal. 2:20).