Catechesis: Handing on the Person of Christ

July 27th, 2011
jesus_road

Last week, I had the privilege of attending the St. John Bosco Catechetical Conference at Franciscan University of Steubenville.  It was a fantastic week of networking and collaborating with catechists and catechetical leaders from literally around the world who are working tirelessly in the vinyard of the Lord in handing on the faith to those the Lord has entrusted to them.  The ministry of catechesis is one of the most crucial ministries in the Church and is part of the Lord”s commisioning to the Chuch to “baptize all the nations in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teach them all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)   I thought that this would be a great opportunity to reflect upon what exactly is catechesis, and that in reality, we are all catechists and are called to hand on the very Person of Christ.

What is catechesis?  Catechesis comes from the Greek meaning “to echo.”  It is the mission entrusted to the Church by Christ to “echo” or to faithfully hand on what Jesus has revealed to us through his Incarnation, his life and mission, and the Paschal mystery of his death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven.  In fact, through catechesis, it is not so much what we hand on but Whom.  As John Paul II simply but profoundly states in his letter on catechesis Catechesi Tradendae:   “At the heart of catechesis we find, in essence, a Person, the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, ‘the only Son from the Father…full of grace and truth.’”  (CT, 5)  Here we see the essence of what catechesis is:  the handing on of the person of Christ, and truth he reveals and the life of grace he offers to us.  First and foremost, catechesis must hand on the truth of Christ and who he is; the full revelation of the Father and the full revelation of our own humanity destined for eternal glory.  For it is only in the truth of Christ that we can come to know true freedom and the fullness of human life:   “For I came that they might have life and have it abundantly.” (Jn 10:10)  This truth about Christ in turn leads us to his life, a life of abundant grace found especially in the celebration of the sacraments and most profoundly in his real presence in the Eucharist.  As catechists, we are the instruments the Lord uses to echo this truth so that others may come first to know him and then have communion and life through Him.  “[Catechesis] is to seek to understand the meaning of Christ’s actions and words and of the signs worked by him…Accordingly, the definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ:  only He can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity.”  (CT, 5)

Thus as catechists, we hand on not our own teaching, but Christ’s teaching.  What a profound gift it is to be the instrument Christ chooses to use to bring his grace and truth to those entrusted to us!   In order to be true and effective catechists we must have the humility to know and understand our role of instrumentality.  With this precisely in mind, Pope John Paul beautifully and powerfully lays forth the role of the catechist:

Every catechist should be able to apply to himself the mysterious words of Jesus: “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me”.  Saint Paul did this when he was dealing with a question of prime importance: “I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you”.  What assiduous study of the word of God transmitted by the Church”s Magisterium, what profound familiarity with Christ and with the Father, what a spirit of prayer, what detachment from self must a catechist have in order that he can say: “My teaching is not mine”! (CT, 6)

This indeed is a tall order and we don’t do it perfectly!  But, if we as catechists are to more faithfully echo the person and teaching of Christ, then we ourselves must see that we are immersed into his mystery in our own lives by contemplating and pondering the mystery of Christ through prayer, the sacraments, and our own personal study and ongoing “faith seeking understanding” and conversion of heart.   The more we are rooted in Christ, the more perfect and clear will be our echoing of Christ and his truth.  We see in Mary, who was the first catechist, the first to echo Christ and his truth, a profound living example for us who catechize.  For often in the gospel do we see Mary “pondering these things in her heart.” (Lk 2:19)   She allowed the mystery and truth of Christ to so penetrate her being that she was able to perfectly reflect the light of her Son.  As John Paul explains:

Christ is the supreme Teacher, the revealer and the one revealed. It is not just a question of learning what he taught but of “learning him”. In this regard could we have any better teacher than Mary? From the divine standpoint, the Spirit is the interior teacher who leads us to the full truth of Christ (cf. Jn 14:26; 15:26; 16:13). But among creatures no one knows Christ better than Mary; no one can introduce us to a profound knowledge of his mystery better than his Mother.  (RVM, 14)

Thus, it especially when we ponder with Mary the mystery of her Son through the rosary that we sit at the “school of Mary” and come to a deeper knowledge and communion with her Son.  Through the rosary we join with her in pondering in our own hearts the saving truth of Jesus Christ and come into a more intimate communion with him.  This is why the rosary is above all a Christ-centered prayer in which we learn Christ with and through the intercession of his Mother.  Therefore, devotion to the rosary can be a powerful spiritual tool in helping us come to a deeper knowledge of Christ so that we may be ever more faithful in “echoing” Christ through our ministry of catechesis.

May we all entrust ourselves to the maternal intercession of Mary who was for us the model catechist, and the first to hand on the Person of Christ.  As Pope John Paul II powerfully prays:

May the Virgin of Pentecost obtain this for us through her intercession. By a unique vocation, she saw her Son Jesus “increase in wisdom and in stature, and in favor.” As He sat on her lap and later as He listened to her throughout the hidden life at Nazareth, this Son, who was “the only Son from the Father,” “full of grace and truth,” was formed by her in human knowledge of the Scriptures and of the history of God”s plan for His people, and in adoration of the Father. She in turn was the first of His disciples. She was the first in time, because even when she found her adolescent Son in the temple she received from Him lessons that she kept in her heart.  She was the first disciple above all else because no one has been “taught by God” to such depth. She was “both mother and disciple,” as St. Augustine said of her, venturing to add that her discipleship was more important for her than her motherhood.  There are good grounds for the statement made in the synod hall that Mary is “a living catechism” and “the mother and model of catechists.”

May the presence of the Holy Spirit, through the prayers of Mary, grant the Church unprecedented enthusiasm in the catechetical work that is essential for her. Thus will she effectively carry out, at this moment of grace, her inalienable and universal mission, the mission given her by her Teacher: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” (CT, 73)

Peter the Rock

July 5th, 2011
peter

     On June 29th, we celebrated the feast of Saints Peter and Paul in which we honor and recognize these two great apostles as the pillars of the Church and great defenders of the truth of Christ.   This feast gives us an opportune time to now reflect upon the role and mission of St. Peter as the head of Christ’s Church, and the profound authority that was given to him by Christ himself that is also handed on to his successors, the Pope, until the end of time.  In a world and culture marred by the great errors of moral relativism and the denial of objective truth, the Papacy, in the role of the successor of St. Peter, stands as the one and true defender of all truth as revealed by Jesus Christ. 

    While all the apostles were given the authority and the mission by Christ to teach, govern, and minister in his name, Peter was set apart and given a unique role by Christ that emphasized his teaching and governing authority over all the apostles and other disciples.  This is seen most profoundly in Matthew 16:

 

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.  And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16:13-19)

 

      In this very powerful scene, Jesus is asking the apostles who others think he is, but in reality, he is asking them who they think he is.  While the other apostles give many different answers, Peter is the one who sees the real identity of Christ as the Messiah and responds, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus responds, “Blessed are you Simon, son of Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.”  Jesus is revealing a profound truth.  Peter has been given a unique gift, or charism, by the Father to know and teach the truth, and his knowledge of Jesus’ identity is a result of this special gift.  Jesus recognizes this gift and special role of Peter and bestows on him a unique teaching and governing authority over all the apostles and the entire Church.

      Therefore, Jesus changes Peter’s name from Simon to Peter, which means “Rock” (Greek petros).  This is packed with meaning as the changing of one’s name in the Scriptures means a new identity, mission, and calling.  For example, God changed Abram’s name to Abraham when he responded to God’s invitation of faith, and he became the father of all of God’s people.  In the same way here, Jesus changes Simon’s name to Peter to show his new identity and mission as the “rock” and head of the Church.

      Jesus calls Peter “rock,” and it is upon “this rock” that Jesus will build his Church.  Why does Jesus build his Church upon Peter?  It is fundamentally in response to Peter already exercising his teaching authority given to him by the Father.  He has received a gift of wisdom to know the truth about Christ, and also a teaching charism to proclaim it with clarity and without error. 

      No mere human revealed to Peter that Jesus was the Messiah.  He had not yet told Peter that he was the Messiah, and many were still seriously grappling with exactly who Jesus was.  But Peter was given the gift to know the truth, and he faithfully proclaimed it to the apostles.  He will be the one who will lead, teach, and strengthen the apostles and the other followers after the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus. 

      Recognizing Peter’s gift of teaching the truth, Jesus then grants him a unique and profound authority:  “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.  Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”  Jesus entrusts to Peter the keys to the Church!  What does this mean?  In Jesus’ time, when the master was going to leave his estate for a time, he would entrust to his head servant the keys to the estate.  This servant, who possessed the keys, was entrusted with the full authority of his master while he was away.  Thus, the servant does not replace the master, but possesses his authority in his absence.  Peter becomes the “Vicar” of Christ, that is, he has been given the full authority of the Master over his Church until he comes again.  However, with this authority comes great responsibility.  The servant who is given the keys of the master is expected to take care of and run the estate in the way the master desires.  In the same way, Peter’s authority is one of service and obedience to the will and teachings of Christ.  It is the sole responsibility of Peter and his successors to authoritatively and faithfully teach and hand on what Christ has taught and willed.

     This same teaching charism given by the Father and profound authority bestowed upon Peter by Christ himself is also handed on to each and every successor of Peter in the person of the Pope.  By virtue of his office, the Pope is guided by the Holy Spirit to teach and proclaim the truth as it pertains to faith and morals without error.  Thus, it is through the Pope as the visible head of the Church that the sacred Deposit of Faith entrusted by Christ to the Church has remained preserved, intact, and handed on without error for over 2,000 years. 

     The gift of the Papacy has been especially evident in recent history through the great Popes of the 20th century, especially as exemplified in our late Holy Father Blessed Pope John Paul II and continued today through the great leadership of Pope Benedict XVI.  In these times of great moral confusion, and when the basic foundations of the truths of Christianity are being challenged by an increasingly secular culture, it is the Pope as the successor of St. Peter that continues to steer and guide the Church towards the truth of Christ so that the promise of Christ will be fulfilled:  “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld will never prevail against it.”  

Go in Peace to Love and Serve the Lord

June 27th, 2011
POPE ELEVATES EUCHARIST DURING CHRISTMAS EVE MASS AT VATICAN

     Pope Benedict XVI, on the Feast of Corpus Christi, preached a very powerful homily on the Eucharist as the antidote to the many evils in the world.  However, the Eucharist is the antidote only if we, who receive the Real Presence of Jesus Christ, allow the Body and Blood of Jesus to transform our hearts and minds so that we can go out and transform the culture by being a true witness of Christ.  This is why we are commissioned at the end of Mass to “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”  We come to Mass not only to worship, but we  ourselves are sacrificed to the Father with Christ really present in the Eucharist so that we may be graced, transformed, and prepared to go out and do Christ”s work, and to be his presence in the ordinary places of secular life.   This is at the very heart of our mission as lay members of the Church.   As the Second Vatican Council teaches us: 

But the laity, by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God. They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven. They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven. In this way they may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity. Therefore, since they are tightly bound up in all types of temporal affairs it is their special task to order and to throw light upon these affairs in such a way that they may come into being and then continually increase according to Christ to the praise of the Creator and the Redeemer. (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, 31)

 

     Therefore, we must resist the temptation to leave our Catholicism at the door of the church and realize that each one of us is empowered by the Eucharistic Christ to go out and make a difference in the world, to be the presence of Christ and the Church where there is much darkness and sin.   Only through our presence enlightened, transformed, and graced by the Real Presence of Christ can our culture be transformed from a culture of death to the culture of life. We cannot afford to sit on the sidelines anymore, there is too much at stake!  We must have the courage and the consolation to know that Jesus is truly with us, and that he will give us the strength, the words, and the wisdom to make a difference in world.  Communion with Jesus Christ in the Eucharist calls us to mission, and the mission fields are not in a far away country.  The mission fields are here, in our families, in our parishes, in our schools, in the workplace.  These are the places where we must make a difference and make the light of Christ known to all!

     With all this in mind, let us meditate on the powerful words of the Holy Father who is reminding us of the power of the Eucharist in our lives and our calling to go out and share in his redeeming work and be his witnesses to all we encounter:

So from the gift of Christ”s love comes our special responsibility as Christians in building a cohesive, just and fraternal society. Especially in our time when globalization makes us increasingly dependent upon each other, Christianity can and must ensure that this unity will not be built without God, without true Love. This would give way to confusion and individualism, the oppression of some against others. The Gospel has always aimed at the unity of the human family, a unity not imposed from above, or by ideological or economic interests, but from a sense of responsibility toward each other, because we identify ourselves as members of the same body, the body of Christ, because we have learned and continually learn from the Sacrament of the Altar that communion, love is the path of true justice.

Let us return to Jesus” act in the Last Supper. What happened at that moment? When he said: This is my body which is given to you, this is my blood shed for you and for the multitude, what happened? Jesus in that gesture anticipates the event of Calvary. He accepts his passion out of love, with its trial and its violence, even to death on the cross; by accepting it in this way he transforms it into an act of giving. This is the transformation that the world needs most, because he redeems it from within, he opens it up to the kingdom of heaven. But God always wants to accomplish this renewal of the world through the same path followed by Christ, indeed, the path that is himself. There is nothing magic in Christianity. There are no shortcuts, but everything passes through the patient and humble logic of the grain of wheat that is broken to give life, the logic of faith that moves mountains with the gentle power of God. This is why God wants to continue to renew humanity, history and the cosmos through this chain of transformations, of which the Eucharist is the sacrament. Through the consecrated bread and wine, in which his Body and Blood is truly present, Christ transforms us, assimilating us in him: He involves us in his redeeming work, enabling us, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, to live according to his same logic of gift, like grains of wheat united with him and in him. Thus unity and peace, which are the goal for which we strive, are sown and mature in the furrows of history, according to God”s plan.

Without illusions, without ideological utopias, we walk the streets of the world, bringing within us the Body of the Lord, like the Virgin Mary in the mystery of the Visitation. With the humble awareness that we are simple grains of wheat, we cherish the firm conviction that the love of God, incarnate in Christ, is stronger than evil, violence and death. We know that God is preparing for all people new heavens and new earth where peace and justice prevail — and by faith we glimpse the new world, that is our true home. Also this evening as the sun sets on our beloved city of Rome, we set out again on this path: With us is Jesus in the Eucharist, the Risen One, who said, “I am with you always, until the end of world “(Mt 28:20). Thank you, Lord Jesus! Thank you for your fidelity, which sustains our hope. Stay with us, because the evening comes. “Jesus, good shepherd and true bread, have mercy on us; feed us and guard us. Grant that we find happiness in the land of the living.” Amen.

Got Jesus?

June 23rd, 2011
eucharist

     This Sunday, we celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, or the Body and Blood of Christ.  It is the day in which the universal Church celebrates with great joy and thanksgiving the gift of Jesus’ real presence in the Eucharist, in which he is truly and really with us until the end of time.  We recall the words of Jesus himself in the Gospel of John:  “For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”  (John 6:55-56)  This teaching was and has been a hard teaching for many.  The truth of these words is especially evident when many of Jesus’ followers abandoned him after he spoke them.  Jesus does not apologize or give a further explanation for his teaching but instead he turns to the twelve apostles and says, “Do you also want to leave?”  Simon Peter replies with the great his great words of faith, “Master, to whom shall we go, for you have the words of everlasting life.”  (Jn 6:68)

     One of the major stumbling blocks concerning the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist for some Catholics and non-Catholics alike is that it seems so impossible that Christ could be really and substantially present in the Eucharist when it looks, tastes, smells, and feels like bread and wine.  It is a mystery and it goes against what our senses are telling us.  Our senses perceive what appears to be bread and wine, when in fact, through the power and miraculous work of the Holy Spirit, the substance itself has been changed from bread and wine into Christ himself.  This doctrine of transubstantiation literally means “change of substance.”  This is relatively simple miracle for us to comprehend, much more so than the mysteries of the Trinity, the Incarnation or the Resurrection of Christ.  Let’s look at how all this happens.

     To better understand this doctrine, we need to do just a little philosophy.   We need to delve into some metaphysics, or the study of being.  Now, everything that exists has what we call its substance and its accidents, or properties.  For example, if I have an apple, the substance put quite simply, is what it is objectively apart from it’s individual characteristics: an apple or its “appleness.”  Now, the accidents or properties of the apple are things like size, shape, taste, color, texture, etc.  So, if I am holding an apple, the substance is an apple and the accidents would be red, round, sweet, crunchy, smooth, etc.  Now, could it be possible to change the accidents of a substance, but the substance remains the same?  Sure.  Let’s say I put the apple in a blender.  What happens?  The accidents change, but the substance remains the same.  It is still an apple, but now it is liquid, yellow, etc.  Let’s take another example.  How about water?  Here is a substance that remains the same while the accidents change quite drastically.  It can be a liquid, solid or gas, but regardless it remains water. 

     Now that we have a better understanding of substance and accidents, we can better comprehend that what God does in the Eucharist through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Instead of the accidents changing in the bread, it is the substance which changes.  When the priest says the words of Jesus, “this is my body” over the bread, the Holy Spirit suspends, or keeps the same, the accidents and appearance of bread, but changes the substance from bread to Christ himself.  The very substance of the Eucharist is Jesus, though the accidents remain those of bread.  Therefore, though we see the accidents of bread and wine, the reality of the substance is truly the Son of God who chooses such a humble means to present himself to us and come in our hearts to dwell.  Not a hard miracle for God to perform, but it really throws our minds for a loop!

     Now we need to do some epistemology, or the study of knowledge.  How do we come to know things?  Our intellect or mind is part of our soul, but it interacts with the physical world through the information from our senses to come to know things.  Our mind relies on our senses of sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing to know and understand the physical world.  Our senses, however, only perceive the accidents of a substance.  When my mind perceives furry, small, four legs, and bark, it knows the object as “dog.”  Our minds completely rely on the accidents of a substance to know what it is.

     However, in the Eucharist, God has changed the substance of bread and wine into Jesus, but has kept all the accidents of bread and wine the same.  Thus, our senses are still telling our mind that the Eucharist is bread and wine, which is all that our senses can perceive.  This is where we must make that intellectual and spiritual “leap of faith.”  Christ has revealed, both through his own words and through the teaching of the Church, that He is truly present in the Eucharist.  So while our senses are screaming to our intellect that what we hold in our hands is ordinary bread, our faith tells us that God has changed the substance to Christ himself!  St. Thomas Aquinas writes a beautiful depiction of this mystery in a much loved traditional hymn of the Church, the Tantum Ergo:

Down in adoration falling,
This great sacrament we hail.
Over ancient forms of worship,
Newer rites of Grace prevail:
Faith will tell us Christ is present,
When our human senses fail.

 

Come Holy Spirit!

June 9th, 2011

     This Sunday, we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost, when the fullness of the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles and they burst out of the upper room and began to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This feast is one of the most important events in salvation history for two reasons.  First, Pentecost fully reveals the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity.  The strong driving wind and the tongues of fire that fell upon the apostles are the visible signs of the Holy Spirit, the love of the Father and the Son poured forth transforming the apostles and empowering them to be the witnesses of Christ to the ends of the earth thus fulfilling the words of Christ:  “But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

     The coming of the Holy Spirit also institutes the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.  Pentecost is the birthday of the Church and all four of these marks of the Church are present at Pentecost.  When you carefully read the Pentecost account in the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke makes it very clear that this is not just an individual experience of the coming of the Holy Spirit by the apostles and other disciples, but is in fact above all an ecclesial event.

     First, St. Luke makes it clear that all the nations of the ancient world are present in Jerusalem, and, in fact, if you had a map of the ancient world at the time, Luke mentions almost all of the major regions and cities that encompassed the entire world at this time.  And yet, each person by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit is able to hear the Gospel of Christ preached in his own language.   What is happening here?  St. Luke is making strikingly clear that the same humanity that was scattered in the Book of Genesis at the Tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9) is now being intimately united in the power of the Holy Spirit in the Church.  A humanity that was once scattered and divided in sin is now, by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, newly created as the Body of Christ, the Church.  Thus, we see that this gathering of the human family at Pentecost is the Church that is both one and Catholic, or universal.  In other words, the Holy Spirit brings about the Church that is intimately united in the Spirit and also knows no boundaries, for the Church is open to every person of every race, language and culture. 

    Secondly, we also see that this Church is holy, first and foremost because it is filled with the Holy Spirit.  We also see that those who are joined to the Church are joined to her by virtue of the Sacrament of Baptism through which they die to their old sinful selves and become a new creation in Christ.  The Holy Spirit sent by Christ not only inaugurates the presence and mission of the Church, but that same Spirit makes the Church holy.

     Thirdly, we also see in the Pentecost event that the Church is Apostolic in that it is Peter and the other eleven apostles that are charged with handing on the Deposit of Faith that has been entrusted to them by Christ.  This is the profound beauty of the Church, that Christ instituted the Church upon the Rock of Peter and the other apostles, and then filled them with a unique charism of the Holy Spirit to hand on, protect, and interpret the Deposit of Faith to each generation.  This handing on of the faith beginning at Pentecost and continuing to this present day in the successors of the apostles, the Pope and the Bishops, is guided, protected, and guaranteed by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

     Two years ago, I had the awesome privilege of visiting Rome and St. Peter’s Basilica where we celebrated Mass at the Altar of St. Peter.  Above the altar at the very front of St. Peter’s is the famous stained glass window of the Holy Spirit pouring down from heaven over the Chair of St. Peter.  This was one of the most moving experiences as I truly sensed the power of the Holy Spirit as he guides and protects the Church throughout the centuries.  It is this presence of the Holy Spirit first given at Pentecost that inaugurated the mission of the Church that has also protected and kept the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church alive and well as the instrument of salvation in the world for over 2,000 years. 

     As we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost, let us not only give thanks to God for the gift of the Holy Spirit in our own lives, but for the great gift of the Catholic Church that is truly the “church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15)

Holy Week and the Crucifix at St. James Academy

April 21st, 2011

 

The Story of this Crucifix – A Father and a Son

At the opening of our new Catholic high school, St. James Academy in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, our chapel needed a Crucifix.

A friend and donor approached me regarding a nationally known artist who created life-like representations of people from various walks of life. My friend talked to this artist about creating a life size, real depiction of Christ’s Crucifixion. The artist not only agreed to do the work, but placed it first in front of 19 other commissioned projects. My friend generously agreed to fund the Crucifix.

Upon arrival at St. James, our staff, students and parents were so moved by this realistic depiction of the crucifixion that we held a special viewing for the community to reflect on Christ’s sacrifice and love. Visitors from outside our school still come to our chapel to witness this moving piece of art.

Finally, the artist himself visited our chapel. The story he told about his work was equally moving. The Crucifix held great meaning for him because the model for Jesus was his son from whom he had been estranged. As the production continued, he and his son reconnected and their relationship was renewed.

A father and a son brought back together again by the sacrificial love we witness in Christ’s life.

Easter Blessings,
Mike T. Alex
Executive Director of My Catholic Faith Delivered
Past President of St. James Academy

Dr. Kreeft on Religion and Sex

January 13th, 2011

Back in the mid-1980s I was a student of noted philosopher and author Peter Kreeft while attending an east coast seminary. I”ve been blessed to have had many outstanding teachers through the years, but Dr. Kreeft had the incredible gift of being able to make even the most abstruse philosophical concepts accessible to everybody.

Today I stumbled upon the transcription of a talk he gave last fall at the national convention of the Catholic Medical Association. His topic was to show the profound connection between religion (i.e., Christ) and sex to a culture of sex addicts. His presentation was part theology of the body, part commonsense philosophy and social commentary, and it was all vintage Dr. Kreeft. It”s one of the best articles I”ve read in a long, long time. Here”s how he opens his discussion:

“To see that the Sexual Revolution has been radical in thought as well as behavior, just look at the revolution in language. When people use the word ”morality” today they almost always mean sexual morality. That’2012-04-24 18:32:12′s a remarkable new development, an astonishing narrowing; it”s as if we started to use the word ”state” to mean only Russia, or the word ”technology” to mean only ”computers.” The reason for the new development is obvious from my two comparisons: sex, Russia, and computers are where there have been the most radical revolutions.

“No one speaks of a revolution in any other area of morality. No one speaks of the Property Revolution or the Bearing False Witness Revolution. In fact the rest of the natural moral law is pretty much still in place. Almost no one defends terrorism, sadism, cannibalism, insider trading, nuclear war, environmental pollution, rape, hypocrisy, torture, or murder. We are still ”judgmental” about those things. But if it has anything to do with sex we dare no longer be ”judgmental.””

It only gets better. For the complete text, click here. Kudos to the excellent Catholic Education Resource Center website for transcribing the lecture and making it available to the public!

 

Apostleship of Prayer

January 11th, 2011

Today, as sort of an annual ritual around the end of the Christmas season, I meticulously went through all the cards, Christmas letters, and family photos that we received over the past several weeks. I saw many of them as they came in, but I always go through the whole pile to make sure I didn”t miss anything.

One thing that fell out of a Christmas card from a dear priest friend was a leaflet from the Apostleship of Prayer, containing the Pope”s intentions for each month of 2011.  It dawned on me that this would be a most helpful thing to post at the beginning of each month. Before giving the Pope”s intentions for January (I”m 12 days late, so another few minutes won”t hurt anybody), I”d like to recommend two privileged times for remembering the Pope’2012-04-24 18:32:15′s intentions:

First, there”s the Morning Offering, which is a great way to start the day:

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day, in union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sin, and the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and for all the intentions recommended by our Holy Father this month. Amen.

Second, there”s the family Rosary. At the beginning or end of the Rosary, to gain the indulgence for praying the Rosary, as well as to manifest the unity of our prayer with that of the universal Church, it”s customary to pray an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be for the Pope”s intentions.

But what are the Pope”s intentions this month? Here they are:

Care for Creation. That the riches of the created world may be preserved, valued, and made available as God”s precious gift to all.

Unity of Christians. That Christians may attain full unity, witnessing to all the universal fatherhood of God.

I will post his intentions for subsequent months at the beginning of each month. In the meantime, check out the website of the Apostleship of Prayer for more information on this pious practice.

 

Tuscon Aftermath

January 11th, 2011

When something goes wrong in my family, my initial, emotional reaction is often to look for someone to blame. Only after that am I able to comfort the “victims” (e.g., the six-year-old that just got knocked down or poked in the eye). As I gather myself, I become better able to address the situation in a reasonable manner.

I think a similar dynamic is at work in Tucson. In the wake of the tragedy that took place there over the weekend, it”s not altogether surprising that blame is extending well beyond the deranged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner. It”s especially disappointing that some of the commentary is politically motivated, as though “the Republicans” or “the Tea Party” or “the Democrats” are to blame for this. I think most people are put off by this outrageous, inflammatory rhetoric.

Occasions such as these should bring us together as a nation. We”ve had our initial emotional reaction. Now it”s time to mourn the dead, heal the wounded, support and comfort the victims” families, honor the heroes, and pray for all concerned. And then Loughner and any related societal issues can be addressed in a just and reasonable way. That”s my two cents’2012-04-24 18:32:16′ anyway.

Click here for the comments of Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

We Believe in Love

January 5th, 2011

The first reading at Mass today (and any day) is not taken from the Gospel, but it sure is good news! Below is the text, with verses that I find especially inspiring highlighted: 

Beloved, if God so loved us,
we also must love one another.
No one has ever seen God.
Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us,
and his love is brought to perfection in us.

This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us,
that he has given us of his Spirit.
Moreover, we have seen and testify
that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world.
Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,
God remains in him and he in God.
We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.

God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.
In this is love brought to perfection among us,
that we have confidence on the day of judgment
because as he is, so are we in this world.
There is no fear in love,
but perfect love drives out fear
because fear has to do with punishment,
and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. (1 John 4:11-18)

Today is also the feast of St. John Neumann, not to be confused with the recently beatified John Henry Newman. This 19th-century immigrant priest became known as the Apostle of the Alleghenies, and he later became the Bishop of Philadelphia. While most saints lived long ago in far away places, St. John Neumann is very much part of our own cultural history. This was brought home to me when I lived in Ohio. I belonged to the St. John Neumann Knights of Columbus Council, and in our St. John Neumann adoration chapel, we actually had baptismal and marriage records signed by none other than this holy cleric!

St. John Neumann eventually became a U.S. citizen, and he was the first U.S. bishop to become a saint. Let”s take this opportunity to pray, through the intercession of St. John Neumann, for our own bishops and priests.

On a personal note, I will be away from my computer for a few days. I will resume my daily posts next week.