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Domus Porta Fidei is a transitional, residential young adult community for Catholic singles ages 22-35 who have graduated from college … Continue reading →
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By: Elizabeth C. Rizzo
MSW Candidate, University of Denver
“When you love people, you see all the good in them, all the Christ in them.” — Dorothy Day, On Pilgrimage, April 1948
I’m Elizabeth, and I’m a Catholic Social Worker. That’s my dirty little secret. Why dirty? It appears that all things Catholic are unmentionable in the modern social work world. Interesting really, when social work as a profession has its very roots in faith-based programs, specifically those developed and funded by the Catholic Church. One need only look to Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement (whose birthday we remember today) to see a shining example of both holiness and social activism. She has been described as a saint and a rebel, politically radical and yet theologically conservative. Her commitment to charity changed the way we understand social work practice, yet oddly, in graduate level social work education, faith and justice are presented as mutually exclusive entities; one as the enemy of the other.
How did the practice of social work become so seemingly incompatible with faith? Through the gradual secularization of postmodern society, we have lost sight of the Christian roots of so many systems we take for granted (hospitals, education, and social programs to name a few). Are social activism and traditional theology really at odds? In a recent homily, Pope Francis warned the Church of the dangers in making these kinds of associations in saying “When a Christian becomes a disciple of an ideology, he has lost his faith; he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, but of this way of thinking.” I am not a Catholic solely because I believe in the moral statements of the Church any more than I am a social worker because social justice is hip.
It was through my own reversion that my career path crystallized before my eyes. When finally ready to make something beautiful out of the dust of my past, social work education presented me with an opportunity. I enrolled in an MSW program, aware that my Catholic identity would likely be met with some resistance. I’m now in my 2nd year of that program, and there have been many painful moments of challenged faith and questioning whether my career and my religion were at all compatible. I have been left feeling that if my definition of social justice doesn’t align perfectly with those of the administration, I am in the wrong field. Despite the often hostile response to my beliefs, and the expectation that I must violate my conscience in order to be an effective social worker, I consider myself incredibly blessed to have found my way here.
I’m privileged to have daily opportunities to encounter Christ in each individual and family I work with; opportunities to strive to see through the broken and desolate to the image and likeness of our God that is always inherent, though sometimes hidden away in the deepest recesses of the human heart. I know it was through my own forgiveness and healing that I developed the desire to begin to learn how.
There are days when it is extremely challenging; when all I can see is brokenness before me, and in those moments it can be tempting to withhold compassion or build up a defensive wall of protection. It’s in those moments that I recall the Father’s mercy the day I crawled to Him myself, broken and ashamed, head hung low and hand outstretched in humble appeal, and I recall the love and mercy He held out for me.
With God’s grace, I try to never assume that I know why or how a person has ended up in their current situation, knowing firsthand that ultimately their path is irrelevant. If I am able to reach out in response and provide comfort or assistance in even one small way, it is my responsibility as a Christian and as a social worker to do so. In that incredibly beautiful and fundamental way, I find the two remarkably compatible.
By: Roselyn M. Caston
Domus Porta Fidei
There is beauty in death. Or so the Capuchins and others who built the decorative ossuaries of Europe would say. I remember in college walking through one Capuchin bone church in Rome with chills down my spine wondering what they were thinking making archways and clocks and chandeliers out of bones. How morbid. How morose. How gross.
And yet thinking of the Church’s understanding of the afterlife, it makes sense and is somehow eerily beautiful. I believe in everlasting life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church talks a good deal about this, that we can unite our death to Jesus’, wherein he transforms death from a vast nothingness to a “step towards him and an entrance into everlasting life” (CCC 1020).
Why the bones and the morbidity, though? Shouldn’t we be thinking about the resurrection and about our new life in Christ? The Catholic Church emphasizes that we are only offered new life because sin and death were transformed. In other words, we don’t have the glory of the resurrection without the suffering of the cross. It is a reminder to us that without the Lord, we alienate ourselves from that life, from that love. It is partly the reason why on Ash Wednesday we are smudged with a cross of ashes. “Remember, you are dust and to dust you shall return.” And yet, with Christ we are given the most incredible gift, the gift of eternal life with Him. And so that stark reminder of our end is transformed by hope in Him.
This is also why at Mass we can kneel before not just an empty cross, but a crucifix. Remember the Scripture when the Israelites were miserable and disgusted in the desert on their exodus out of Egypt and dying because a snake bit them? The Lord says to Moses,
“Make a seraph (snake) and mount it on a pole,
and if any who have been bitten look at it, they will live.”
Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole,
and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent
looked at the bronze serpent, he lived” (Nm 21:8-9).
So they looked upon what was death for them, raised high, and were saved. How beautiful then is our remembrance of the cross with Christ raised high. He became death and was raised up so that we might look upon him, believe in Him and live. As John says,
“just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 14-17).
We look upon the crucifix, and honor and love our God who so loves us. We look upon Christ present to us in the Eucharist, raised up by the priest as those holy words are spoken, “hoc est corpus meum,” “this is my body,” given for you. With this, we are given the strength and courage to in turn offer all of our selves to Him.
We remember those who have died in these coming days. Halloween, as we call it now, really means “Hallowed Evening” or “Holy Evening.” It is the eve before the Solemnity of All Saints and the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (AKA All Souls). We remember all the saints in heaven who have given their lives for Him, and we remember our loved ones and pray for them still, that they may be united with Him in heaven.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I like me a good pumpkin carving and I kind of love kids dressing up like lobsters in pots and as bowls of spaghetti. I like the warm apple cider and pumpkin pie, the flickering candles and even a spooky story or two. But while the passing days of autumn and the changing colors of leaves offer us beautiful reflection and give us pause as we approach the chill of winter, it is a shame that the commercialized culture has watered down and twisted up these feast days and even mocked the faith which has brought us all this far. It is a shame to have children waving wands saying “Hocus Pocus,” plausibly a mockery of those very words of Consecration at Mass, “Hoc est corpus meum” (this is my body). It is a shame that these days we remember death, but forget the life that awaits us and Christ who has made it possible.
These coming days, my joy lies in Christ, knowing that He (and not Twix bars) will be nourishment for that final journey:
Go forth, Christian soul, from this world
in the name of God the almighty Father,
who created you,
in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God,
who suffered for you,
in the name of the Holy Spirit,
who was poured out upon you.
Go forth, faithful Christian!
May you live in peace this day,
may your home be with God in Zion,
with Mary, the virgin Mother of God,
with Joseph, and all the angels and saints. . . .
May you return to [your Creator]
who formed you from the dust of the earth.
May holy Mary, the angels, and all the saints
come to meet you as you go forth from this life. . . .
May you see your Redeemer face to face. (OCF, Prayer of Commendation)
By: Roselyn M. Caston
Domus Porta Fidei
On this Memorial of Saints John de Brébeuf and Isaac Jogues, Priests, and Companions, Martyrs, ask yourself a question right now. Ask, “Am I a missionary?”
If you respond, ‘I’m not sure’ or ‘I went on a mission trip once…,’ then it’s time to renew some things in your heart. Right here. Right now.
First, a little refresher. What IS a missionary, and what does the Church say about missionary activity? The word itself comes from the Latin missionem (nominative missio) which means “act of sending.” In fact, that’s where we get the word Mass (missa) from. The priest sends us forth, “Go in peace…” hearkening to the Great Command in the Scriptures to go and make disciples of all nations (cf. Matthew 28:19). Simply put, the Church defines missionaries as those who are sent forth. As the Scriptures say and the Mass reminds us, we’re all called to “go in [the] peace” of Christ; we are literally dismissed from Mass (“Ite, Missa est”) and sent forth to make disciples of all nations.
So, we’re all called to be missionaries then? Yes.
I’ll admit, for those of us who are cradle Catholics, we (or at least I) do a great job compartmentalizing. We go to Mass on Sunday and then pull our sister’s hair and yell as we’re on the way out the door. We pray for a friend who is sick, but ignore God’s real presence in our every day lives. We do some service hours to prepare for Confirmation and then forget to fan the fire of the Holy Spirit which filled us on that day. We go, perhaps, on a mission trip in college, but refuse to speak about our relationship with Christ with our closest friends and family members. Even if we aren’t full-time missionaries abroad like, for example, our friends at Family Missions Company, we ought to still be full-time missionaries professing the Gospel at all times. And yet, we compartmentalize, don’t we?
This Sunday is World Missions Sunday, so now is as good a time as any (did I just compartmentalize again?) to exercise our spiritual chops a bit by taking another look (or a first look) at the Papal Decree Ad Gentes (On the Mission Activity of the Church). In a nutshell, the document says something like this: Christ offers us salvation. He institutes the Church as a means for us who come to know him to receive Him and be filled with his Spirit so that we can go out and preach the Gospel about the salvation He offers to the world so that those who come to know him can receive Him….
According to Ad Gentes, “”Missions” is the term usually given to those particular undertakings by which the heralds of the Gospel, sent out by the Church and going forth into the whole world, carry out the task of preaching the Gospel and planting the Church among peoples or groups who do not yet believe in Christ”” While the decree speaks a great deal about particular activities of preaching and planting among those who do not yet believe, it speaks also about cultures and circumstances changing so much that it becomes necessary once again to re-engage with a missionary zeal.
“Moreover, the groups among which the Church dwells are often radically changed, for one reason or other, so that an entirely new set of circumstances may arise. Then the Church must deliberate whether these conditions might again call for her missionary activity. Besides, circumstances are sometimes such that, for the time being, there is no possibility of expounding the Gospel directly and forthwith. Then, of course, missionaries can and must at least bear witness to Christ by charity and by works of mercy, with all patience, prudence and great confidence. Thus they will prepare the way for the Lord and make Him somehow present.”
The churches that we worship in today are standing because of missionaries: both great, well known missionaries and unnamed, unspoken heroes of the faith. The North American martyrs, for example, came and spread the faith until their death, and it is the fruit of their labors that give us the freedom to worship as we do today. And yet, our culture has radically been changing. We now live in a secular society, and so we must renew our zeal and our hearts must burn with the same fire of the Spirit that burned in the hearts of those like St. Isaac Jogues and St. Rene Goupil, and those unnamed saints who through their witness and preaching, brought the faith to those who did not believe.
If, then, we are called to be missionaries, and if our culture has become somewhat resistant to the message of the Gospel, we must work to reignite the flame once more. First, within ourselves, we must recognize that as Christians, “We cannot accept that salt should become tasteless or the light be kept hidden (cf. Mt5:13-16)” (Porta Fidei 3). We must remember the reason for our faith, the reason for our hope. We must re-encounter Him who has offered us salvation. We must be formed and transformed by His love. This is what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI called us especially in announcing a Year of Faith. It is what Pope Francis is now speaking out about each and every day in his messages to the world.
Once we have reengaged with our faith and rebuilt and renewed our relationship with the Lord, we must go out and give witness to Him with our very lives. Pope Francis realizes that we must reengage ourselves to the task of being missionaries, but that our culture indeed has become one in which we must often simply witness with the basics; with a preaching of the Gospel through “charity and works of mercy,” as Ad Gentes suggests. In his recent interview published in America magazine, Pope Francis says “The Church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all.” When he speaks about how to proclaim the faith, a task in which we are all called to, he says “Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus.”
So, here’s a flowchart for you:
I encounter—> I believe—> I profess
If you don’t believe that you are living your life as a missionary, follow those steps. First, draw near to God, that he might draw near to you (cf. James 4:8). Pray, speak about the faith with others who seem to know Him and encounter Him in the Scriptures and in the Sacraments (Confession and Eucharist especially). When you come to know Him, you will begin to make a great assent to the faith, and with that belief, you will be strengthened to profess the Gospel and the news of His salvation with your whole life. This is the goal, to be an integrated Catholic. With Christ’s light emanating from you, whether speaking about Him or simply serving and loving others, you answer the call of Christ to “go forth and make disciples of all nations.” Indeed, you can then answer the question of “Am I a missionary” with a resounding YES.
By: Rev. Craig J. Vasek
Diocese of Crookston
Few people are saved (cf. Matthew 7:14). Fewer yet are those enlisted in the canon of Saints of Holy Mother Church. But who receives remembrance and praise like John the Baptist? Two feasts, honoring his two births: his birth from Elizabeth’s womb, and his birth into eternity!
To continue with a liturgical study, it is interesting to look at things old and new. The new Confiteor at Holy Mass gets straight to the point: I confess to God (and everyone else in Heaven), and I confess to you, my brothers and sisters (and everyone else on earth). The old Confiteor took the time to acknowledge a few other people, including John the Baptist, both in the first part (the confession), and in the second part (the petition for prayer). The Baptist was brought to the memory of the Faithful at every offering of the Holy Mass, along with his name being mentioned in the Roman Canon. Such is his import and prestige among the disciples of Our Savior.
John was the privileged herald of the Messiah. And on the feast of his Passion, we see that he was a herald both in life and in death. In life, he went about proclaiming “ECCE, AGNUS DEI!” (Jn 1:29). In death, with joy he proclaimed to the souls in captivity, ‘the Messiah has come, he will come soon to save us’!
John was the privileged herald of the Messiah. And on the feast of his Passion, we see that he was a herald both in life and in death. In life, he went about proclaiming “ECCE, AGNUS DEI!” (Jn 1:29). In death, with joy he proclaimed to the souls in captivity, ‘the Messiah has come, he will come soon to save us’!
Our reflection upon what happens after death is of utmost import. Most people fear death (natural enough I suppose), but this leads very often to a failure of even thinking of what comes after death. This, in effect, can lead to a false understanding, and a practical unbelief in the Afterlife!
So we ought to reflect upon what is to come. Leaving John’s first birth to another feast, let us ponder his second birth. He had seen the Messiah. He had proclaimed Him, pointed Him out, acknowledged His authority, and it was time for John to depart. It has been the case that many Saints have died in a way that reflects the Death of Our Lord. Stephen’s martyrdom is an example in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 7:55-60). Peter’s crucifixion, upside down, is another. John is not so different. He had been mistaken to be the Messiah! He was arrested, as was Our Lord. He was maltreated by Herod, as was Our Lord. He dies in the midst of violence, immorality, and the thronging of a mob, as was Our Lord. John Chrysostom speaks of the goodness of John and the wickedness of the circumstances:
John is the school of virtues, the guide of life, the model of holiness, the norm of justice, the mirror of virginity, the stamp of modesty, the exemplar of chastity, the road of repentance, the pardon of sinners, the discipline of faith – John, greater than man, equal to angels, sum of the Law, sanction of the Gospel, voice of the apostles, silence of the prophets, lantern of the world, forerunner of the Judge, center of the whole Trinity! And so great a one as this is given to an incestuous woman, betrayed to an adulteress, awarded to a dancing girl! (“Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints” 520)
…and, we might add, handed over by a man mouthing evil oaths! (Mt 14:1-12)
To move from the evil circumstances of John’s Passion, what good news could we offer to rectify the injustice? John’s Passion was not John’s end. John’s first birth, as our first birth, was ordered to his second birth. It does us little good to have been born, if we are not preparing for birth into eternity. In Biblical language, “It would be better for that man to not have been born!” (cf. Mt 26:24)
John was born into eternal bliss on that day. He was a herald both in life and in death. He was now assured of such joy, and proclaimed it to those in captivity, those who had been waiting for a redeemer, those going back all the way to our first parents. To Adam, John could say, “The New Adam has come! He has come to save us!” To the patriarchs and prophets, John could say, “the King and Ruler of Israel has come!” No longer with distant promises, the faithful in captivity would rise, and look to the gates of deliverance, expectation renewed at the arrival of the Herald. With what joy and elation did John and the rest greet Our Lord when He came in power to save, when He came and trampled the gates of Hell, when He opened the gates of Paradise, when John’s heralding was fulfilled! And the last ‘ECCE’ was the best, for it was not in passing proclamation, but the beginning of an unending beholding. John could fix his gaze on the Lamb of God, the Lamb once slain, never to die again! (Rev 5:6)
The Catholic Encyclopedia. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 486-491. Print.
The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints. First single-volume paperback edition. Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 2012. 520. Print.
The Navarre Bible: Saint Matthew’s Gospel. 3rd edition. New York: Scepter Publishers, 2005. Print.
By: Sheila Archambault
Normally, everyone tries to shy away from pain. We like to focus on the good things in life and what makes us happy, such as achieving our personal and professional goals, taking that exotic vacation we have been planning for a year, or buying a new pair of designer shoes. I have to admit that I understand this all too well.
It can be so easy to get into the routine of focusing on myself and my needs, instead of taking the time to notice and care for others around me.
It can be so easy to get into the routine of focusing on myself and my needs, instead of taking the time to notice and care for others around me. Whenever I find myself getting sucked into a self-focused cycle, I think of St. Rose of Lima. St. Rose was one of those amazing people who over-flowed with love for others and put God at the forefront of every aspect of her life.
St. Rose was my Confirmation saint; and she played a huge role in my development as a young Catholic. I converted to Catholicism during my freshman year of college. Like every young 18-year-old experiencing their first taste of freedom, I was on a quest to forge my own identity and to figure out what I really wanted in life. I grew up in a strong Protestant family and never doubted my relationship with Christ, but I knew something was missing. I needed to find the best way I could express my love for God and deepen my relationship with Him.
I attended the University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul, MN, where Theology classes were part of our required curriculum. At that time, my understanding of Catholicism was extremely limited; and I remember the first time attending a Catholic Mass with a college friend was an incredibly confusing experience. My lack of understanding of the mass and desire to understand it, in addition, to studying great theologians, like St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, in my Theology class piqued my interest in the Catholic Church. I signed up for the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) as a way to learn more about the Mass structure and the traditions and the teachings of the Church – I had no plan to actually convert at the end of it. But, the beauty of the Catholic tradition, the strength I gained from learning about the saints’ struggles and strong devotion to God, and the deepening of my personal relationship with Christ through the RCIA process solidified my desire to convert, and I still consider it to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Towards the end of the RCIA process, when we chose our Confirmation saints, I remember picking St. Rose out of a book of saints I found at my local bookstore. St. Rose of Lima was the saint who stood out the most to me.
When reading about St. Rose, I was able to pick out some of my personal struggles and shortcomings and was inspired by the way she handled her personal challenges and lived her life.
When reading about St. Rose, I was able to pick out some of my personal struggles and shortcomings and was inspired by the way she handled her personal challenges and lived her life. I knew then and still know today that I probably do not have the strength to act in life as she did, but it is something to continue to aspire to do.
I, like many women, can find myself focusing a lot of time, energy, and money on beauty. It’s easy to get sucked into society’s view of beauty. Some days spending time on my appearance can increase my self-esteem, and at other times I feel like I will never measure up to society’s definition of beauty. While I definitely do not think trying to look your best is bad, it can definitely become negative quickly if it becomes too large of a focal point and the way that we measure ourselves and judge others. St. Rose was greatly admired for her physical beauty, but she had no desire to be admired for it or to even marry, which greatly frustrated her parents. This was such a strong conviction that I remember reading that she rubbed pepper all over her face to mar her complexion and deter suitors. Instead, she wanted to devote her life to God and focus on strengthening her relationship with Him and helping others.
St. Rose devoted a great amount of her life to caring for the hungry and sick, even those with extremely repulsive wounds. One afternoon while I was taking public transportation home from work, St. Rose entered my mind. A homeless woman sat next to me, and I remembered my first reaction was feeling annoyed and trying to move away from her, but at that moment, I thought of the great love that St. Rose showed to everyone, especially those that society casts aside. I felt a great deal of shame at my initial reaction and an outpouring of love towards this woman, and while I did not have anything at that moment I could give her, I spent the rest of the way home in silent prayer for her and still keep her in my prayers.
St. Rose is most well-known for her penances, which are difficult for me, and I am sure for many of us, to personally relate. She often performed penances, such as wearing a crown around her head with sharp points, in memory of Christ’s crown of thorns, inflicting floggings on her body, reducing the amount and controlling what she ate, and sleeping on a bed with rocks and broken glass, when she was not depriving herself of sleep. In September 2012, I had the opportunity to take part in a Catholic missionary trip in Peru and visited St. Rose’s convent in Lima, Peru. When hearing more about St. Rose’s penances at her convent, I was shocked by the pain she inflicted on herself. St. Rose performed these penances as a way to deeply connect herself to Christ and his suffering on the cross; and was given special graces from God to perform them.
While I will never be able to perform these types of penances, her actions make me think of little ways everyday that I can deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Christ.
While I will never be able to perform these types of penances, her actions make me think of little ways everyday that I can deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Christ.
When St. Rose faced challenges, she gave all her troubles to God, and prayed “Lord, increase my sufferings and with them increase your love in my heart.” More suffering is something we normally don’t pray for, but St. Rose has showed me that suffering is not always negative. Through our own personal suffering and struggles, our relationship with Christ can deepen and we can grow in faith and love.
St. Rose of Lima, pray for us!
Feast Day ~ August 23
By: Rev. Jeremy Trowbridge
Diocese of Rockford
When the second Person of the Trinity became incarnate by the power of the Holy Spirit within the womb of the Blessed Mary, he took on humanity for Himself. He who existed with the Father and the Holy Spirit from the beginning became enfleshed, incarnate. This is how He was known: His image / figure / appearance / reality was human.
The ones who knew the truth regarding Jesus were Mary & Joseph; Elizabeth, Zechariah & John, and Anne & Joachim. These, among a few others, I’m sure, knew that there was something more about Jesus. Even if they were not aware of His fullness, they knew that His humanity which they encountered was not His completeness…there was more!
Our Lord, in His wisdom, knew that the social, political, and religious pressures would increase significantly for Himself and the Apostles.
The faith of His followers was fledgling even though He knew they had the potential to soar.
The faith of His followers was fledgling even though He knew they had the potential to soar. In addition to these horizontal pressures, Jesus was beginning to share more of the vertical or heavenly richness of His Incarnation, namely the foretelling of His Crucifixion. Let us explore this for a moment.
When we look to the Gospel of Luke (9:28-36), we find the text for the event of the Transfiguration. But just a few verses before the Transfiguration, we find Peter’s declaration that Jesus is the Christ (9:18-22), let us consider the words of Peter and Jesus:
(20) And he said to them “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” (21) But He charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, (22) saying, “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
Peter had spoken a great truth in faith about the reality of Jesus, recognizing Him as the Christ.
But Jesus does not leave the moment there, He takes that moment of faith’s manifestation and thrusts it forward into a greater and deeper mystery, that of the Cross.
But Jesus does not leave the moment there, He takes that moment of faith’s manifestation and thrusts it forward into a greater and deeper mystery, that of the Cross. I am sure the Twelve were not quite ready for this; and I trust that the Lord knew this to be the case. So What does He do?
Jesus takes Peter, James & John (the leaders of the Twelve) to Mount Tabor and the events of the Transfiguration unfold. Jesus, the Christ, is no longer seen by these three as a man in their midst, but as the splendor of His true Divinity! The veil of the flesh has been lifted; and they are able to see Him as He truly is! This event is one that no longer demands these three to draw heavily from the fortitude of faith, for now they have seen and they know, experientially, that Jesus is exactly who He says He is. This enables Peter, James, and John to sustain a morale of fidelity to Jesus Christ among the Twelve when the external pressures and seeming atrocities befall Him. What wisdom Our Lord displays in fortifying these Apostles in such an undeniable manner.
How do we learn from the event of the Transfiguration? Let us journey back to Tabor.
When Jesus is transfigured before them with Moses and Elijah at His right and at His left, Peter says something unique: “Master it is good that we are here, let us make three tents, one for you and one of Moses and one for Elijah.”
Why does Peter say this? The gospel text states that not even Peter knows what he is saying. Peter’s statement, I submit is genuine, albeit short-sighted. It is as if Peter is saying, “This moment of Transfiguration is an awesome moment and I do not want it to go away, if I build you all a place to stay, will you stay?” The error here is that the Transfiguration is not a moment to be enjoyed for ever, it is a moment to strengthen the faithful that they may persevere for their benefit and the benefit of others.
I think this dynamic is easily seen within our lives of faith as well. In our journey of faith, we are blessed with heavenly consolations, little foretastes of heaven, and they really do buoy us up when things are tough.
And then when things are tough again, we seem to re-enact the events which led us to past consolations…we are trying to hold on the the “Transfiguration Moment,” but that is never what it was for.
And then when things are tough again, we seem to re-enact the events which led us to past consolations…we are trying to hold on the the “Transfiguration Moment,” but that is never what it was for. A wise spiritual director once shared, “As a follower of Christ are we in love with the God of consolations or rather the consolations of God?”
This is a jarring consideration, because it gets to the point of our faith-focus. Are we loving as we should: God? Neighbor? Self? This is the mark of our Christian life always striving for a more perfect focus that we may draw more perfectly toward Christ in all things.
Let us learn a lesson from Peter, who in his zeal was good-hearted, but in his excitement was so taken up that he forgot what he was saying. Let us not forget ourselves in faith. An in so doing might we heed the words of the Almighty Father on Mount Tabor, “This is my chosen Son; listen to Him!”
By: Rev. Gregory Rannazzisi
Domus Porta Fidei
Telling one’s vocation story isn’t uncommon for a priest. During seminary and shortly thereafter, a lot of people want to know the answer to the same question: What made you want to become a priest? I suppose this question is even more pressing given our world today. A generation or two ago, it was very common for young men to enter the seminary. I remember the Irish side of my family joking that it was typical – if not expected – that one son become a fireman, another a lawyer and the third a priest. While that’s certainly not the case these days, answering that question is just as important now as it was then: What made you want to become a priest?
I’ve remarked before that I don’t really have a “vocation story.”
That’s because the story of my vocation is inextricably linked to my life story.
That’s because the story of my vocation is inextricably linked to my life story. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a priest. Or to put it more precisely, I’ve always been fascinated by the priesthood and at some point in high school it became an actual desire. Some priests describe two general types of vocations – cradle and college. If those broad categories suffice, then mine was certainly the former.
My childhood was a very characteristic one for anyone born and raised on Long Island. My family was the very typical Italian/Irish/Catholic one. I use that term ‘typical’ not to imply bland, but to describe how natural faith was in our life. We weren’t particularly zealous in our practice of the faith, but being Catholic was as natural to us as the reality of going to school. Mass every Sunday was non-negotiable; grace was said before meals; we never imagined going to a wedding reception without going to the church ceremony; we were all involved in ministries and groups in the parish; and priests were not just pastors, but friends of the family. My brother, sister, and I went to our parochial school until eighth grade. I continued in Catholic education through college.
The earliest memory I have of expressing an interest came in Kindergarten. I remember distinctly one day our teacher, Mrs. Jenson, asking us to draw what we might like to be when we grew up. My friend Marshall was drawing and astronaut (he eventually entered the Navy) and Mike was drawing a police office (scarily enough that prophecy was fulfilled, but that’s another story).
I was drawing a man in a black suit with a white square under his neck. I’m not really sure I even knew what that meant but that’s what I was drawing because, I suppose, it somehow captured my imagination as much as an astronaut or cop could.
I was drawing a man in a black suit with a white square under his neck. I’m not really sure I even knew what that meant but that’s what I was drawing because, I suppose, it somehow captured my imagination as much as an astronaut or cop could. As my understanding of priesthood evolved over time, so too did my fascination with it.
By fourth or fifth grade, my understanding of what a priest does was limited to what I saw on Sunday. Priests were up in the front of the church, wearing funny looking outfits, and everyone loved them. Why wouldn’t anyone want to be a priest?! Eventually I started to see priests beyond the hour or so I was at church on Sunday. In middle school, I was asked by one of our priests, Fr. Brian, to help him prepare for and serve the larger Masses throughout the year, especially Holy Week and Easter. This was my first real glimpse into the life of a priest “behind the scenes.” Again, seeing priests in the office, interacting with staff members that reminded me of my own parents, and doing the mundane work of answering phone messages, making photocopies, and creating schedules, made me become more intrigued into the real life of a priest. By the beginning of high school, I got a job as an evening/weekend receptionist in the parish office and eventually was a weekend sacristan. This was perhaps the most formative part of my early vocation. At this point I got to see what priests did for the 95% of the time they weren’t saying Mass. Now I saw priests heading to the hospital to anoint someone who was ill or dying, meeting with couples planning their wedding, having meetings with groups and ministries to plan activities, counseling people I could tell were having a rough time, and so much more. This is where my vocation went from intrigue to excitement.
I was also blessed to have other structures around me to nurture not only my vocation, but more fundamentally, my faith. The youth group at my home parish was – and still is – one of the most dynamic ones in our diocese. I made friends and forged lasting relationships that were based on a desire to grow in love of the faith. Additionally, I attended a Catholic high school run by Franciscan brothers who placed a very high premium on one’s development as a Christian disciple along with being a well-rounded student. Later in college at Fordham University, I continued to deepen my love not only for priesthood, but also for the Eucharist and the study of Theology. During the course of these years from high school to college, I can’t really point to any one moment and say, “That’s when I decided to be a priest.” It was more a series of confirmations of this abiding desire in my heart to commit my life fully to the service of God and the Church.
By the end of college, I was convinced that God was calling me to be a priest. I remember telling my roommates that this is what I wanted. I was very nervous, thinking that they would be shocked or react in a negative way. In fact, when I told them, I was shocked at how utterly unaffected they were. Their basic sentiment was, “Yeah, Greg, we knew this. Of course you should be a priest.” Yet again, I took this as a confirmation that God was indeed calling me to be a priest. Those I had come to know well over the course of years as well as my family and friends from childhood were all very comfortable and supportive of me becoming a priest, which made the process that much easier.
This is not to say, however, that there weren’t doubts within my heart. Many times I found myself asking not should I be a priest but could I be a priest. That is to say, my concern was whether or not I could faithfully live out the priestly life. When I’ve told people that I always wanted to be a priest, they often respond that it must be nice to know early on what I wanted to do; and it must’ve made life easier. Not so. As I was drawing nearer to submit my application to seminary, I started to question myself – this is all I’ve ever wanted to do, to be. Am I not open to other possibilities? Am I limiting myself and not exploring all the other options for my life? I had worked as an EMT for an ambulance squad, come to like the academic world and gained interest in law and politics. Was I closing off some of these fields as viable options for my professional life? But in the end, I consistently returned in prayer to the image of Jesus calling the first apostles and asking them to drop their nets and followed him. That’s the image I return to very often as I live out my priesthood.
I started this brief reflection by asking the question posed many times before – what made you want to be a priest. But in fact, that’s not the correct question.
It’s not what made but Who asked you to be a priest. A vocation isn’t a command; it’s an invitation. God has a plan for each one of us. Sometimes we have the grace to feel an inkling early on in life tugging us in a particular direction. For many, it takes years to properly discern what God is calling us to.
It’s not what made but Who asked you to be a priest. A vocation isn’t a command; it’s an invitation. God has a plan for each one of us. Sometimes we have the grace to feel an inkling early on in life tugging us in a particular direction. For many, it takes years to properly discern what God is calling us to. But that’s life: a series of invitations from God to respond with a generous, open heart to look for ways to love and bring life.
I’ve been a priest for four years now. I’m still overwhelmed when I think about what God has invited me to do. Being a part of people’s journeys in the joys and sorrows of life is the most fulfilling life I could imagine. From wakes to weddings, Mass to confession, counseling to serving – being a priest is about bringing Christ’s hope, life, and love to a world often shrouded in darkness. Indeed, that’s the vocation of us all – to be people of hope – in whatever way God invites us to do so.
By: Ryan M. Williams
Domus Porta Fidei
Readings for Tuesday, July 23, 2013: Ex 14:21—15:1; Ex 15:8-9, 10 and 12, 17; Mt 12:46-50
Today the Lord speaks to us about Divine Power and Holy Division.
We begin in Exodus; Moses, as the agent of God, stretches forth his hand and divides the sea so that God’s people can escape the Egyptians. The Israelites and the Egyptians, themselves split based upon their belief in God, watch in amazement as the rules of nature are torn apart and overturned to allow the one to pass out from under the malice of the other. How much does this miracle amaze even the modern mind in its grandeur, its over-the-top expression? (Recall also that the Israelites were also led at night by a pillar of flame!) Can God really do that? We ask.
This is no “normal” event; it is Divine Power directly interceding for those special people who love God.
This is no “normal” event; it is Divine Power directly interceding for those special people who love God. In this story, the Egyptians are thrown into stark contrast with the Israelites by this fact; on the one hand, the Israelites love, honor, and worship God, and on the other the Egyptians hate, disregard, and defame God. We see the consequences of both lives, and we see their cause lies in the division between them.
Flash forward to the Gospel of Matthew and what do we see?
We see a God that divides yet again. Who is Christ’s family? It is comprised of those who follow the will of the Father; they are the actual mothers, and brothers, and sisters of Christ. But how is it possible to be family to Christ if we were not born in the same blood? We find our answer in the divided sea. As in Exodus, nature opens up to a new reality for the beloved of God and the impossible happens. The love that God has for us, both before and after our grateful response to Him, makes nature anew; it makes us one with God. Can God really do that? We ask again. Naturally, this is impossible, just like naturally it is impossible to split the sea. Nonetheless it occurs, and its occurrence depends upon the same distinction made between the Israelites and the Egyptians; that of the division between those who listen to God and those who do not.
In this way, Christ reminds us that his family is like the Israelites crossing through the impossible boundary of nature into the peaceful and wonderful existence of God and that membership of this family depends upon loving submission to the will of our heavenly Father.
In this way, Christ reminds us that his family is like the Israelites crossing through the impossible boundary of nature into the peaceful and wonderful existence of God and that membership of this family depends upon loving submission to the will of our heavenly Father. At the same time, we must remember the equally true fact that those who fail to become members of Christ’s family in this way resemble the Egyptians. They run to their destruction as nature crashes down around them.
Today let us pray for the peace and love found in doing the Will of the Father, so that all might come to be mothers, brothers, and sisters of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that we may celebrate within His family banquet for eternity.
By: Alexander Schimpf
I have an unusual worry about us as modern-day Catholics: I worry that we do not value Catholic friendship highly enough.
I told you it was a strange worry. But bear with me. This is not something I thought up whilst pondering reality in my windowless cubicle last week. It is an insight that has come to me slowly, and I must confess, came to me rather against my own will (which actually leads me to trust it a bit more than I otherwise would).
I first became aware of the power of Catholic friendship years ago when I was a seminarian discerning my vocation. I began helping out a religious brother with some day camps he ran for the youth of our parish. These day camps involved attendance at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, praying the Holy Rosary, singing hymns, and other “religious” activities. However, they also involved many other activities that seemed somewhat secular: canoe trips, dodge-ball, crafts, et al. I began to wonder if assisting with such endeavors was really the best use of my time, and I gently asked the brother in charge what exactly our goal was for all these activities. I still remember his answer: “I know that if I can just get some good Catholic friendships in place among these kids, they will turn out fine.” And I still remember my answer: “What?”
But he was right. I was around the parish just long enough to see those same children become teenagers, and to see them beginning to exert a tremendous influence over one another for the good.
I see the same thing now, years later, as a college teacher. Nearly all of my students come from what you might call “Catholic backgrounds,” but it is obvious that not all of them manage to persevere in the faith in the new atmosphere that is college.
To my surprise, the best predictor of which students will stay strong amidst the new temptations of college has not been their level of Catholic knowledge, or the strength of their families back home. Rather, the best predictor has been having Catholic friends.
To my surprise, the best predictor of which students will stay strong amidst the new temptations of college has not been their level of Catholic knowledge, or the strength of their families back home. Rather, the best predictor has been having Catholic friends. The students who either find or form a group of friends at school with a robust Catholic identity (i.e. they pray together) tend to be the ones who keep the faith.
But all this, you say, only concerns the young, those still in formation. Friendship is nice, but an adult Catholic with a mature friendship with God can surely do without.
While indeed nothing is impossible for God, I would, however, submit for your consideration these words from Sirach 6:14-17:
“A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; whoever finds one finds a treasure. Faithful friends are beyond price, no amount can balance their worth. Faithful friends are a life-saving medicine; those who fear God will find them. Those who fear the Lord enjoy stable friendship, for as they are, so will their neighbors be.”
Notice there are no age-qualifiers in those verses. At any age, “faith-full” friendships are beyond price. Friends are, in a paradoxical way, presented both as a sign of seriousness in the spiritual life (“those who fear God will find them”) and as that same piety’s reward (“those who fear the Lord enjoy stable friendship”). Either way, friendship is presented as part and parcel of the life of faith.
But perhaps our confusion about the benefits of friendship is not really a confusion about Holy Writ, but more of a confusion about friendship itself. Think of it as a specific application of the problem of evil: we all have had the unfortunate experience of being led astray by friends—even “Catholic” friends.
It is helpful in this regard to recall Aristotle’s remarks on friendship in the Nicomachean Ethics. If there is one thing to take from Aristotle, it is that not all friendships are equally worthy of the name friendship. Specifically, Aristotle distinguishes between friendships of utility, friendships of pleasure, and friendships of the good.
A friendship of utility is a friendship based on mutual benefit. You may have had a friendship like this in high school with someone who had a car or season tickets to ball games.
A friendship of pleasure is a friendship based on mutual delight. These are the guys in your fantasy football league, or any friends you have because they are so much fun to be around.
One might think that those two categories would divide up all the human possibilities of friendship between them, but Aristotle also speaks of a more rare type of friendship, friendship of the good or perfect friendship. This is a type of friendship in which the other person is loved not for the sake of how pleasant he seems to you, or how beneficial he is to you, but rather for his own sake, because of his own intrinsic goodness. Such friendships—friendships of the good—are friendships in the truest sense of the word.
They are pleasant and beneficial, but they are also stable, for when goodness is truly achieved, it is a stable thing. Most importantly, such friendships tend to increase the goodness of those involved in them, both because people tend to imitate the good characteristics of their friends, and because people find it easier to do the things they ought to do when they have the help of friends.
They are pleasant and beneficial, but they are also stable, for when goodness is truly achieved, it is a stable thing. Most importantly, such friendships tend to increase the goodness of those involved in them, both because people tend to imitate the good characteristics of their friends, and because people find it easier to do the things they ought to do when they have the help of friends. Many a Catholic, ensconced in bed on a Sunday morning, has gotten up precisely because he knows the conversation with his friends that will otherwise await him: “So, I did not see you at mass this morning . . . “
It seems to me that it is to friendships of this latter sort, friendships of the good, that we are summoned as Catholics. One might object that friendship seems too natural to be important to our supernatural lives of grace, but that is just it: grace builds on and perfects nature. To put that more bluntly, now that we have been given the help of the sacraments and the promises of Christ (“I have not called you servants but friends”) friendship of the good is more of a possibility for us than it was in Aristotle’s day.
It is not coincidence that so many of the canonized saints in the Church have come from religious communities: good friends help us to achieve the good, even the ultimate good that is God.
Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul ― Saturday, 06/29/2013
“Who then is this one?” Just like the disciples of Jesus in the First Century, both believers and non-believers today are called to ask, “Who is Jesus?”
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus directly questions Peter by saying: “But who do you say that I am?” (16.15). Peter replies by professing the following words: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 16). Peter proclaims similar manifestations of faith in Mark (8.29) and in Luke (9.20). In the Acts of the Apostles, a voice calls out to Saul (Paul) saying “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? (9.4). This narrative continues with Saul seeking an answer to his question: “Who are you, Lord?” (v. 5). The response to the latter question reveals that Jesus (v. 5) is the one whom Saul persecutes by his zealous pursuit against the disciples of the Lord (Acts 9.1).
While focusing on these scriptural verses, the biblical texts remind us that we should constantly seek to identify and welcome Jesus into our lives. They should also cause each one of us to question: “Do we really live whole-heartedly to do the will of God?” We should never be complacent in matters of faith, for the danger becomes then that even though we might think we are at times doing the will of God, we need to reflect carefully on our faith and ask not only “Do we recognize Jesus in our actions?” but also “In the words that we proclaim to confess as being words uttered in faith, as living out the commandments of God, do we “live” Jesus (participation in Christ)?
Why bother to reflect on these passages from the Word of God or even question what we do and say in our living out of the faith daily? It is precisely because it can be difficult to leave aside our misconceptions on how one should “arrive” at faith, that daily reflection should be an active part of one’s vocation. The reality of embracing a life which transforms us completely can seem daunting before one takes even the first step on the pathway ahead of us!
Importantly, though we hold Peter at this point in the abovementioned Synoptic Gospels’ texts on such a high pedestal, we must remind ourselves that this is not the case throughout the entire New Testament (see John 13.6, 8a, 9, 36a, 38 for some examples). We can often hear Peter’s misunderstandings of Christ’s mission often recalled even today, when a fellow member of the Church community recognize their wrongdoings by communicating to them the saying: “Sure didn’t even Peter himself deny our Lord!” This can ring in our ears, without taking full stock of what we are saying or hearing. However, the issue at hand is not to gloat on the wrongdoings of Peter or another human being for that matter. Rather we are called to interpret these occasions and reflect on how a human being, no matter who they are, can begin afresh by seeing things anew. How is this possible?
God extends an invitation to all human beings: to enter His kingdom. This invitation has been sent to us through the ministry of Jesus Christ and His earliest disciples that has continued on down throughout history. But we need to see all things anew by being in Christ, living a life of faith which responds to Jesus’ invitation to enter into the banquet that is the kingdom of God!
God extends an invitation to all human beings: to enter His kingdom. This invitation has been sent to us through the ministry of Jesus Christ and His earliest disciples that has continued on down throughout history. But we need to see all things anew by being in Christ, living a life of faith which responds to Jesus’ invitation to enter into the banquet that is the kingdom of God! How can we see things anew? Like Ss. Peter and Paul, we should be answering the question that should remain for each one of us to answer honestly: “Have we properly taken stock of what it means to enter kingdom of God, to be a disciple of Christ, to be called to be saints?” In this manner, the writings ascribed with the name of Paul are a great attribute for us. We can read that Paul does not push aside his role in the persecution of Christ’s followers, but rather openly addresses the issue of his past failures in the following biblical passages: Gal 1.13-14; Phil 3.6; 1 Tim 1.13 (among others). Our past failures are not something we can eradicate, but we can repent and begin afresh by seeing all matters of faith, of hope, of love, that is all that it means to enter the Christian community with a new perspective! If Peter and Paul can find the strength to start anew then why can’t we? God loves us all, we are all created in his image and likeness (Gen 1.26-27), but the challenge remains: Do we wish to begin that (seemingly) overwhelming step on the journey that leads us to everlasting life?
So what is the point of all this reflection? We are called to clearly acknowledge and venerate these two saints; in spite of their failings as human beings, both Peter and Paul were given a particular mission in the life of the Church. Of course, one could ask: “Why show compassion to someone who denies you vehemently or even to one who continuously persecutes you by zealously seeking to destroy your followers, the church?”
Jesus Christ, by showing this mercy and compassion, reminds us that what we perceive to be even the most-hardened of hearts can still repent, can still change, can still turn towards God and live the life He has called us to in the pilgrimage of faith on earth so as to be destined to live the life of fullness with Him in heaven. For this reason, Peter was the apostle to the Jews, while Paul was to be the apostle to the Gentiles.
Jesus Christ, by showing this mercy and compassion, reminds us that what we perceive to be even the most-hardened of hearts can still repent, can still change, can still turn towards God and live the life He has called us to in the pilgrimage of faith on earth so as to be destined to live the life of fullness with Him in heaven. For this reason, Peter was the apostle to the Jews, while Paul was to be the apostle to the Gentiles. In other words, we are called to be saints, we are called to be transformed “in Christ Jesus” (Rom 6.11). Christ’s mission does not play favourites, rather each one of us today, both believers and non-believers, are constantly called to question “Who is Jesus?” However, we are not supposed to stop addressing this question, once we think we know the answer. Rather we are called to be transformed into action, into living the faith out daily, not simply to know about Jesus, but to know Him by encountering Him.
Bearing this question in mind, we are also called to seek comfort in the examples that Peter and Paul did relay to the Church community to follow. The question that Jesus poses to Peter and Peter’s reply, gave rise to the occasion in which Jesus responds with the well-known wording: “You are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my church” (Matt 16.18). Jesus rewards Peter’s faith, while Paul also reminds us that the “crown of righteousness” is waiting for each of us who “have fought the good fight, have finished the race, have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4. 7-8). In other words, when one has and maintains faith, it is never too late: God’s plan for each of us can shape our lives in the here and now, with the aim that we should live the life that we hope to attain the next, namely, the kingdom of heaven.
Peter and Paul did not seem to be likely candidates at the first step on their journey towards fulfilling the call to be saints! But with God’s patience, compassion, and mercy, coupled with their acceptance of sincerely living out faith, no matter what the cost (their martyrdoms), both of them bolstered ahead: “Might we do the same and follow them towards the hope of seeking sainthood?” In order to begin the path that leads to this sainthood, one must begin anew with the recognition of one’s sins. This task of recognition is not an easy path to take, but a necessary one requires the accompaniment that is prayer.
It is through prayer, that God’s redeeming love may reach out both to the individual and to the community. It is in our cries, in our dreams, our pleas of desperation, in our requests for forgiveness that God hears all our “voices of life” and seeks to communicate with us that we can begin afresh no matter what our standing in society may be at this moment in time. This task of recognition is not simply applicable to non-believers, but it also applies to all of us who might consider ourselves to be well-seasoned believers or to be best buddies with God.
It is through prayer, that God’s redeeming love may reach out both to the individual and to the community. It is in our cries, in our dreams, our pleas of desperation, in our requests for forgiveness that God hears all our “voices of life” and seeks to communicate with us that we can begin afresh no matter what our standing in society may be at this moment in time. This task of recognition is not simply applicable to non-believers, but it also applies to all of us who might consider ourselves to be well-seasoned believers or to be best buddies with God. Everyone has failings, we are human, however this need not be the end result, for we are reminded in the Book of Genesis that we are made in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1.26-27), thus, we have the ideal, which should be at least aimed for, even if it is not always perceived as being achievable to our human eyes. Though we may be weak right now, it is through perseverance, by being in Christ that we can become strong (1 Cor 1.27 and 2 Cor 12.10).
The following passage is taken from the Gospel of John, “for God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (3.17). May these words remind us that it is through the gift of His Son, to each one of us, that God’s abundant compassion redeems us. However, God has also given us the gift to freely reject or freely choose faith, Jesus Christ; faith, ultimately, to reject or accept our life with Him in His kingdom. The bigger picture here is to question if we wish to accept to love God with all our heart, soul, body, and mind. Is this the life-changing mission that we are ready to move past, the first step of that perceived daunting challenge, like Ss. Peter and Paul? Are we willing to take that leap of faith and begin the mission towards a new evangelization in the world of 2013?
To inspire this leap of faith, let us recall the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI:
The “door of faith” (Acts 14.27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into His Church. It is possible to cross that threshold when the word of God is proclaimed and the heart allows itself to be shaped by transforming grace. To enter through that door is to set out on a journey that lasts a lifetime. (Porta Fidei § 1)