Spreading Light instead of Darkness…

Today I was inspired on this feast of Mary Magdalene (July 22), to sit down and write some thoughts that will be published in a few bulletins later.  It has been months since we concluded the Easter Season, yet the glories of the season should shine throughout the whole year and within the examples of every saint canonized in our Catholic Church—like the light from the sun at dawn cascading over thousands of ripples on the sea.  In fact, saints such as Mary Magdalene help us understand that the promise of new life in the Risen Christ is the central mystery and power of the Gospel that must continue to play out in our lives throughout the whole year.   St. Mary Magdalene had been personally transformed from a cavity of darkness from whom Jesus cast out seven devils to a new creation—even being privileged to be the first to see the risen Lord on Easter morning (John 20:1-2, 11-18).

Now think about it from the twelve apostles’ perspective.  They were the ones whom were hand-picked by Jesus.  They could have dismissed this woman with a tattered past as an embarrassment or smudge on the early fledgling Christian community.  They could have told her, “Stay away…keep quiet… don’t claim association with us because we fear your notorious reputation will set others against us and Christ’s mission.”  Although there is no evidence of this in the Gospels, it is a temptation likely to have been pressing up against their minds.  We all are very often quick to judge or dismiss others in this way.  The famous Russian novelist and historian Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, explains this human temptation to eradicate and dismiss evil in others.  Yet as he suggests, it is not that simple:

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them.  But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.  And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

Akin to the temptation to judge others and label them in our minds is that which comes out through our lips in the sin of gossip.  Like sinful acts, gossip pulls down a blanket of darkness fostering ill will, suspicion, and fear.  Whether as recipients, culprits, or even victims, we all unfortunately experience the damage this causes in the body of Christ.  It appears in two forms:  detraction and calumny.  Detraction is speaking about others with regard to matters that do not concern us.  In this form of gossip, we may not have any intention to hurt another’s reputation, yet the fact that we are sharing what seems to be the truth regarding the supposed immorality or misfortune of another is wrong in itself.  (See Matthew 18:15ff and the Catechism of the Catholic Church #2477 regarding how to handle this).  We must ask ourselves, Do I know every aspect of the situation?  Could it be possible that things were handled in a careful way and even involved others that I simply do not know about?  Is it any of my business or the person’s whom I’m tempted to tell?  Would I want others sharing such information about me—true or untrue?  Does this information (false or true) hurt the faith and trust of our younger generation?...  The other form of gossip, calumny, is far worse.  This is deliberately spreading rumors about others with the intention to injure another’s reputation.  This might occur due to scorn, envy, or to cover up the truth, and is particularly ugly.  

 

No person is perfect and no situation is either; really only God knows the full story.  The best we can do is pray, act with prudence, and hope for the best, so that truth, charity, and justice and mercy win out in the end.  It’s one thing to condone or promote what we know to be an evil situation (such as permitting abuse or remaining silent during thievery over time), but it’s quite another to condemn others or even gossip about what is perceived to have occurred in the past.  Again, did the apostles condemn St. Mary Magdalene?  No.  The Pharisees, on the other hand, follow this path by criticizing Christ for, “eating with tax collectors and sinners” (see Luke 5:29-39).  Jesus challenges us to cast nets instead of casting stones (Jn 8:7).  Gossip often aids the darkness in confirming sinfulness over redemption.  In his wonderful book titled Conversion, Fr. Donald Haggerty explains this obstacle to the Good News:  “The adversary, the evil one, wants to accuse us of a perpetual unworthiness before God, of unsuitability for any friendship with God,” resulting with a lack of confidence in drawing close to the Lord, a feeling of disqualification, a perception that the door is closed (Haggerty 58). 

Yet the brilliant beauty of the Gospel is meant to shine on such as these!  It is for these poor souls that Jesus, as foreshadowed in Moses, came to set us free from slavery and imprisonment.  Fr. Haggerty continues, “Desires for an absolute purity and generosity awaken sometimes at the edge of what could have been a ruined life… The soul scarred by former sin is sometimes, after grace, the soul that will give without reserve.  It is not at all an exaggeration to affirm that great sinners often do become hidden saints” (42-43).

Again, this is why St. Mary Magdalene is so special and fits so beautifully within our story of salvation.  Because of her perseverance in seeking out Christ and God’s desire to bring her new life, we find a model for our own lives and the possibility for every one of us sinners on earth.  It is a cause for real joy!  As Jesus exclaims, “I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” (Lk 15:7).  The new life for St. Mary Magdalene, St. Augustine, and countless others is the bread and butter of God’s work in our Church.  As St. Paul claims,

“So whoever is in Christ is a new creation:

the old things have passed away;

behold, new things have come” (2 Cor. 5:17).

May the goodness of the risen Christ continue to always shine forth in not only our actions but all our hope and encouragement we offer for others whom God is calling to the gates of heaven with all of the angels and saints.  St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us to always spread the light of the Gospel!

Two Events this Week Needing Prayer and Reflection:

Bishops’ Meetings: Bishop Kemme has sent a letter to all of us priests to ask their lay faithful to pray for them as they are meeting in Washington D.C. for the annual bishops’ gathering. They will be seriously making a self-examination and considering the necessary steps to correct areas of clergy abuse in their dioceses. Please pray for humble honesty, courage, and trust in the Holy Spirit in effectively addressing this issue.

Voting: Who in the Church should participate in Political Life? In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation for all eligible. As Catholics, we should be guided more by our moral convictions, paying close attention to candidates' integrity, philosophy, and performance, rather than simply our previous attachment to a political party or interest group. Catholic women and men need to act on the Church's moral principles and become more involved: running for office, working within political parties, and communicating concerns to elected officials. (quote from Faithful Citizenship, by the USCCB). The Bible says this in Romans 13:1-7 “Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities… for it [the authority] is a servant of God for your good… This is why you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Pay to all their dues [taxes and/or honor].” The disregard for the universal right to life is a key issue which always warrants our attention. During the terrible period of legalized slavery in the Americas 1600’s-1863, there were prominent members of the Catholic hierarchy that spoke out; yet the Church remained somewhat unorganized and un-united in approach as a body. May we be sensitive to all the issues, but give priority to do all in our power to protect those most innocent and vulnerable in our society. Know the candidates and get out and vote on Tuesday.

Colors Used at Funeral Masses

The Catholic liturgy is rich in symbols, including the use of various colors. We know that when we see the priest dressed in a white vestment, for example, the Mass theme will celebrate purity, hope, & new life—like Christmas, Easter, feasts of Jesus, Mary, & saints who weren’t martyrs. When we see the color of a red chasuble or chalice veil, we’ll recall the heroism of a martyr who shed his/her red blood or perhaps recognize the fire of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Green symbolizes new growth, like the spring and summer crops; rose symbolizes a lighter side of a penitential season; black expresses solidarity with those who mourn; violet/purple expresses the royalty of Christ & our penitential preparation to meet the King of mercy.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (preface to the book we use at the altar) states in #346 that the liturgical color for funerals is normally violet. Often it is used at papal funeral Masses, though curiously red was used for that of St. John Paul II. White or black may be used with special permission in the United States to express the resurrection, but with caution, so as to not offend those who are mourning (#39 from the Order for Christian Funerals). Historically, early Christians adopted violet as a way to symbolize Christ’s royalty. This occurred because Roman emperors had used rare purple marble called porphyry for their buildings and prohibited it elsewhere. This is why the soldiers clothed Christ in purple and mocked him as the “king of the Jews” (Mk 15:17). Like a president can pardon someone on death row, Christ the King can pardon our loved one. So when we see a purple stole around a priest’s neck, we recall the generous mercy of Christ our King who loves us! Though funerals are often celebrations of the life of our loved ones, we must not lose our Catholic tradition of also praying for them (James 5:16, 2 Maccabees 12:46). And it just fits with the Divine Mercy devotion—which I love!

Finally, the promise of eternal life in Baptism is symbolized by the white pall draped over the casket to symbolize being “clothed in Christ” (Gal. 3:8) as well as the Easter candle shining like a beacon in the darkness to remind us of the triumph of Christ’s resurrection. Our Altar Society has graciously helped to acquire a special new violet vestment with white brocade (matching the pall)—containing both of these important sentiments, praying for the King of mercy to take our loved one into the light and peace of heaven.

Pilgrimage with Fr. Jerome

GO ON A PILGRIMAGE WITH FR. JEROME TO LOURDES AND ITALY IN APRIL OF 2019!

Dear parishioners, I’d always heard what a beautiful pilgrimage Lourdes was but have never gone. Shortly after being assigned here to Our Lady of Lourdes, I was asked by Suzie Diskin (of St. Paul) if I’d like to come on a pilgrimage to this holy site where our Blessed Mother Mary appeared to St. Bernadette. I saw this as providential and a great opportunity to see the holy site for which our parish is named. Furthermore, who doesn’t love Italy, especially the great cities of Rome, Assisi, Sienna, & Orvieto!? Consider joining us for a trip-of-a-lifetime.


Artificial Contraception

This year is the 50th anniversary of Humane Vitae (Human Life) written by Blessed Pope Paul VI.  A call to arms against the culture of license and sexual promiscuity was issued in this short but powerful document.  Marriage is reaffirmed as a sacred institution designed by God whereby a man and woman give of themselves totally in a free, faithful, and fruitful union.  The fear of over-population and the desire to be freed from consequences of intimate unions led scientists to produce a magic little pill.  Even though the majority of Christians had seen artificial contraception as evil, a little pill seemed to promise an easy and healthy fix. This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Rated a class 1 carcinogen and automatic abortifacient (prevents embryo from attachment), widespread consequences followed. Countries now face a negative population growth--Germany, Japan, China, Italy…& etc. paying couples to conceive to carry the economy and elderly care.  More insidiously, as Pope Paul predicted (#17 H.V.) “how wide and easy a road would thus be opened up towards conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality” as well as a growth in disrespect toward women. Subtle in practice, yet devastating over time, we now see the effects in our current culture toward the “unshackling” of responsibility from sexual unions:  most children in the U.S. now live in homes without both biological parents, increased divorce, and gender confusion.

Fortunately the Church charged scientists to discover alternatives.  Natural Family Planning was born. NFP has helped millions to retain respect for the gift of God in fertility and preserve the respect and love of each other in every union.  Without cost a couple learns both how to achieve or postpone pregnancy through bodily signs in the woman’s body. NFP is totally natural and therefore does not harm a woman’s body.  What’s more, the couple’s communication as to their family make-up occurs often and they may practice occasional abstinence and therefore show respect and appreciation for God’s gift of fertility and preservation of the woman’s health.  Far different than artificial contraception which says, “take this or put this on so I can experience pleasure”... NFP speaks more the language of true love, Christian love, that is patient, peaceful, respectful, and self-sacrificial. No wonder, among those who use NFP, 95% remain faithfully married for life.  It is not easy to follow this way. Christ never promised the “narrow road” (Mt 7:13) would be easy. He did, however, promise it would be rewarding and lead to life in its fullness (John 10:10). Check out the Diocesan NFP materials online or speak to some of our current teachers, including Donna Maus. Bless you!

http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/natural-family-planning/what-is-nfp/index.cfm

Eucharistic Adoration Chapel Encouragement

What will heaven be like?  This is a common question of many in our world.  A simple answer is, “spending eternity beholding the face of God.”  The gift of Eucharistic Adoration allows us to essentially do this in advance here on earth!  Obviously when we spend time in prayer with Jesus in adoration we are looking at Him through the veil of the consecrated Host, but He is in fact truly present!  We know that Eucharistic Adoration is often referred to as the “beating heart” of a parish or community because it is where much communal and private prayer occurs.  Countless vocations to the religious life and dedication to spousal love often originate in these small, quiet, sanctuaries from the world.  Often I love to just spend quiet time with Jesus or read some advice to best follow the way of Christ through Scripture, a Rosary, saint’s words or biography, or Catechism of the Catholic Church.  We firmly believe that one reason our Diocese is so strong is because we have 14 perpetual chapels throughout the area.

We are excited to announce that we will be trying something new once a month in this regard.  We thought we’d offer on the 2nd Wednesday of each month an opportunity for the whole parish to gather in the church from 9am—9pm, bringing the monthly adorers over as well, allowing for a larger gathering as well as the opportunity to receive Benediction (blessing from Jesus) at 9pm.  This will dovetail nicely with the monthly Youth Group Adoration from 8pm-9pm.  We welcome you to sign up for an hour anytime during the week (see the open ones on the inside cover of the bulletin); it’s only 1% of the time during a week!  Can you give God 1% of the time He’d given to you?  In eternity, we’ll have plenty; let’s use some of it to connect with God now.