Our community decided in 2008 that the mission of our parish was life-long learning. Everything we do centers around teaching the depth and richness of the Roman Catholic Faith. Our weekly 3-Minute Catechesis is read from the Ambo prior to Mass beginning. A written copy is made available in our weekly bulletin along with additional information for those who want to learn more. Visit us online at www.risensaviorcc.org for more information.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Liturgical Change

On November 29, 1964, at the beginning of Advent, the first of a series of changes in the Mass was implemented. Instead of having his back to the people, the priest faced the people. And Mass was not just being "said," it was "celebrated" – and not all in Latin, but with most parts in the language of the people. This was the first step toward the "full, conscious and active participation" by the people in the Church's liturgical life.

Additional changes came about in the following decade. Scripture readings from both the Old and New Testaments were added, along with a plan: a three-year cycle of Sunday readings and a two-year cycle of weekday readings. The sign of peace was placed between the Our Father and the Lamb of God.

The obligation to fast before receiving Communion was reduced to one hour, and those receiving Eucharist stood instead of kneeling at a Communion rail, and were given the option to receive the host by hand. The 1969 General Instruction on the Roman Missal permitted Communion under both species: bread and wine.

The music changed, too. In keeping with the times, the "folk Mass" sprang up, primarily with guitar-driven choirs. Other local, ethnic elements were incorporated into liturgical celebrations as well.

With these changes came more roles for lay people. Besides singing in the choir, the laity could be lectors, a role previously reserved for seminarians, as well as help distribute Holy Communion. Ushers, who had passed around the offertory baskets and directed people for Communion for generations, were now expected to be ministers of hospitality, welcoming all to Mass.

Since then, only minor changes have been made in the way we celebrate Mass.

With this new year, however, more changes are anticipated. The Vatican has approved a new English translation for the Roman Missal, meaning that Catholics will be using the new version beginning in Advent 2011. These changes include some of the common responses: for example, when the priest says "The Lord be with you," the faithful will respond "And with your spirit" rather than "And also with you."

There will be opportunities throughout the year for you to learn about the new translation. It may seem difficult at first, but as we study and adapt to these changes, it is important to remember that while our beliefs are unchanging, the way we express those beliefs can and will change over time. The words we say will be slightly different, but the Eucharist will continue to be the source and summit of our Christian life.

Feast of the Holy Family

The Feast of the Holy Family is always celebrated on the Sunday after Christmas Day. The gospel accounts that we hear during Christmas give us an idealistic image of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as a family. It’s easy to gaze on the images in the stable and recognize the holiness of the newborn Savior, his mother, and his stepfather. It may be harder to look at your own children, or parents, or brothers and sisters and see reflections of that same holiness in them. Living together day after day, you see your loved ones, warts and all.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us of how important the family is to society. Paragraph 2210 tells us that “the Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit.” Our Church recognizes the family as “a domestic church…a community of faith, hope, and charity; it assumes singular importance in the Church.” (PP# 2204)

Jesus chose to come into this world as part of a family, and so we need develop the ability to see our own families as holy. We should see a reflection of the baby Jesus’ holiness in each child in our own families. We should see the holiness of Mary and of Joseph reflected in ourselves as parents and in our own parents.

The gospels are silent about Jesus’ childhood, but because he was truly human as well as truly God, Jesus no doubt had nosebleeds and skinned knees, tried dangerous stunts, didn’t get enough sleep sometimes and was cranky. Jesus would have been expected to study Hebrew and the Scriptures, and perhaps there were battles over homework. We get a glimpse of Jesus at age twelve in the Gospel of Matthew, wandering off in Jerusalem, causing Mary and Joseph to panic. He may not have had the opportunity to take Driver’s Ed or ask for the car keys, but no doubt there were other, similar parent-teen encounters!

Some may find such speculation to be sacrilegious. “Jesus is perfect,” they’ll object. “Jesus is God!” How very true. And Jesus was also a baby, a teenager, and a young adult, too. True God, true man. Maybe one of the delights of this Christmas season is that some of the small quirky things about us as human beings – the terrible twos, the teenage struggle for independence, parents’ angst about their child – maybe all of these are saintly and part of what it means to a holy family.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Awakening Faith

In the letter to the Hebrews, written by Paul or one of the members of the communities he served, we are given a definition of faith: “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Generically defined, faith is a belief that is not based on science or able to be proved using the scientific method. For a Christian, it is belief in salvation, in eternal life, that comes from – as Paul says in his letter to the Romans – confessing that Jesus is Lord and believing in your heart that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9-10).

Religion is not the same as faith. Religion is a set of practices based on one’s faith. For example, as Catholics, we believe that everyone is made in God’s image; out of that belief, we practice love of neighbor. We believe that baptism cleanses us of original sin and makes us children of God, so we engage in a ritual involving water. Our Church tells us that we should come together as community once a week to worship God, so here we are at Mass. These practices are the outward expression of our faith.

In many of his letters, Paul talks about the people’s preoccupation with the law, which is much like our practice of religion. His fear is that they are simply going through the motions, that they have forgotten what's supposed to motivate their actions. Throughout the letter to the Hebrews, We hear what our Biblical ancestors did in faith and how their faith inspired and sustained them. The message is that our actions, our religion, should be an expression of our inner faith in God.

So what if we’ve lost our faith, or find that our faith is waning? This is not a new problem. In the time of the Old Testament, the Israelites, who heard the voice of God and experienced miracle after miracle, nevertheless occasionally lost faith. Perhaps it is part of human nature that we often need to renew our relationship with God.

A few years ago, there was a program called Renew, where small groups formed for the purpose of faith-sharing. Today, the Church is still here to help you form and grow your faith, this time through Awakening Faith, a small group process that helps inactive Catholics renew their faith.

Saint Paul went to great lengths to establish communities of believers throughout the Roman Empire. He understood, as we do today, that faith is meant to be shared with and nurtured by one another.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Our Lady of Guadalupe

On the morning of December 12 in 1531, a poor Aztec Indian man woke up and made his way through the hills to Mass in Mexico City, as he did every morning. Juan Diego was 57 years old, a humble and devout Catholic in a still largely pagan country. As he walked the familiar path, he suddenly heard beautiful music and a woman's voice calling him.

Turning from the path, Juan climbed Tepeyac (ta-PAY-yek) Hill and found a beautiful young Indian woman waiting for him at the top. Addressing him in his native language, she told him that she was the Virgin Mary and that she wanted a church to be built on that very spot. “This church,” she told him, “will aid the conversion of the Mexican people and be a source of consolation for many."

Leaving the Lady, Juan Diego hurried to obey her request. He was finally allowed to see the bishop who, predictably, did not believe Juan. He returned to the hill and told the Lady what had happened. She reassured him, and told him to return to the bishop, who then asked for a sign from the Lady to prove that she was, indeed, the Blessed Virgin.

The requested sign was provided in the form of beautiful, fragrant roses appearing on the hillside. After Juan gathered them, Our Lady herself arranged them in his tilma, or cloak.

In the presence of the bishop for a third time, Juan opened his tilma, and the roses tumbled out. Awestruck, the bishop fell to his knees because, in addition to the roses, on the inside of Juan's tilma was a miraculous image of our Lady.

Soon, a church was built on the site of the appearance of the Virgin Mary, and in less than 20 years, some 9 million people were converted to Christianity.

Saint Juan Diego's tilma with its miraculous image hangs to this day in the splendid Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the most visited Marian shrine in the world, with an estimated ten million pilgrims visiting each year. Although more than 500 years have passed, the coarse cactus fiber shows no sign of disintegration.

In 1945, because of her special role in the evangelization of the Americas, Pope Pius XII declared her the Empress of all the Americas. She is celebrated and honored every year on December 12th, the anniversary of her first appearance to Saint Juan Diego, for her message of hope and compassion, and her promise of protection.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Fair Trade

Everyone loves a bargain. No doubt on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, many of us were up before the sun to find those great prices only good from 5:00-7:00 AM. In this economy, who isn’t concerned about saving a dollar or two? As Catholics, however, we are cautioned to be concerned and educated consumers, to think beyond the products we purchase to the people and communities that produce them.
We are connected to people across the globe in many different ways, from the clothes we wear to the coffee we drink. As budding global citizens, we are expected to be aware of our connections with the rest of the world, and to take responsibility for the impact of our actions on human communities and the environment. This involves looking beyond the low price to the people behind the product.
In response to unfair trade practices, Fair Trade was born in the middle of the 20th century. What is Fair Trade?
While it may seem counter-cultural for us bargain-hunters, Fair Trade is a practice of paying an equitable price rather than as little as possible for products, with an emphasis on social responsibility. Careful consideration is paid to how business transactions will affect issues in the country of production, including natural resources, cultural traditions, working conditions, worker income and business sustainability.
Fair Trade is in line with Catholic Social Teaching, seeking to empower millions of disadvantaged producers worldwide while protecting the environment for future generations. Fair Trade also empowers U.S. consumers to make a difference in the world simply by adjusting their shopping list. The dramatic growth of Fair Trade products proves that consumers are voting for a better world with their purchases, demanding sustainable, ethically-produced goods.
Certified Fair Trade is a network of growers, artisans, processors, testers, transporters, sellers, and purchasers collaborating to guarantee quality products and a fair wage for all involved in production and marketing.
Who benefits from Fair Trade? All of those people involved in making the item and getting it to market benefit because they all receive a fair wage according to their country’s standard. Others who are interested in becoming Fair Trade growers and artisans also benefit: this is because if you purchase Catholic Relief Services’ Fair Trade items, part of the proceeds are used to help Catholic Relief Services expand participation in Fair Trade. Last but not least, you benefit from Fair Trade because you know that you are purchasing in ways that are fair to all. And that’s a bargain for your soul!

Monday, November 29, 2010

St. Vincent de Paul

Saint Vincent de Paul was born around 1580 of poor parents in a village in France. He was schooled by Franciscan Fathers, studied theology at the university, and was ordained a priest in 1600. Throughout his life, he had a special place in his heart for the poor.

Father Vincent founded the first conference of charity for the assistance of the poor. He led missions for peasants, joined by other Parisian priests. Nearly everywhere, following most of his missions, a conference of charity was founded for the relief of the poor. With the conferences, St. Vincent instituted open retreats for laymen as well as priests; today it is estimated that in the last 25 years of St. Vincent's life, more than 800 persons attended his retreats annually. These retreats powerfully infused a Christian spirit among the masses. His zeal for souls knew no limit; all occasions were to him opportunities to express it.

When he died at the age of 80, the poor of Paris lost their best friend and a benefactor unsurpassed in modern times. The feast day of the Apostle of Charity, as he is known, is Sept. 27th, and he is the patron of charitable societies. At his death he was the director of eleven seminaries. Vincent was canonized by Clement XII in June 1737.

The legacy of St. Vincent de Paul lives on in charitable societies formed throughout the world. The St. Vincent de Paul Society is an international Roman Catholic organization dedicated to tackling poverty by providing direct practical assistance to anyone in need. It was founded in 1833 by Frederic Ozanam, a University student, and a small group of friends who were challenged to assist the poor of Paris. They chose to call their group the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, based on the exemplary charitable life led by Vincent. The Society now numbers nearly 950 thousand members in 132 countries worldwide, whose members operate through conferences, dedicating their time and resources to help those in need in their community.

Risen Savior's St. Vincent de Paul Society is actually a combined effort with our sister parish, Prince of Peace. To support their efforts, we have a 2nd collection on the first Sunday of every month. The members of our society are also behind our annual Christmas Wish List, which further serves the poor in our community, particularly the children, by providing them with needed clothing. This is one of our "Love Your Neighbor" initiatives for December, and one that Risen Savior has been sponsoring for more than 20 years. Through our participation, we continue the good work of St. Vincent de Paul.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Catholic Relief Services

Last month, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of Catholic Charities USA and all they do as the largest private network of social services organizations in the country. Another organization that Catholics can claim and take pride in is Catholic Relief Services. Catholic Relief Services, or CRS, was founded by the U.S. Catholic Bishops in 1943, originally to serve World War II survivors in Europe. Since then, CRS has expanded to more than 100 countries on 5 continents.

The mission of CRS is to assist impoverished and disadvantaged people primarily overseas, working in the spirit of Catholic Social teaching to promote the sacredness of human life and the dignity of the human person. Although their mission is rooted in the Catholic faith, CRS serves people based solely on need, regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity.

So how does Catholic Relief Services serve all of God’s people? CRS and its partners work with the poorest farm families and communities, as well as with communities suffering from HIV and AIDS and victims of manmade and natural disasters in 34 countries worldwide. CRS promotes and supports access to quality basic education for all. Education programs have been implemented in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. In the Philippines, CRS helped identify and train local leaders in basic health services.

From earthquake and hurricane-ravaged Haiti to flood-plagued Pakistan to toxic-waste covered Hungary, CRS is there to lend a helping hand.

CRS complements its humanitarian work with policy analysis and advocacy to address root causes of poverty and conflict. They examine the issues that impact the safety and well-being of poor and vulnerable people worldwide, and work with the USCCB to develop public policy positions. In other words, they are advocates, giving voice to those who have none and working to change unfair policies.

While U.S. parishes have a special collection once a year in March to benefit Catholic Relief Services, there is now another way you can join in their efforts. It’s called Celebration Gifts, and it is one of our December “Love Your Neighbor” initiatives. For that person in your life who doesn’t need another “thing,” consider making a donation to CRS on their behalf to mark special occasions. You can find information about it in our December Ministry Monthly and on our website, but the procedure is simple: you pick the occasion and gift amount, and go to the CRS website. CRS will send a beautiful e-card with your personal message. It is a gift with the potential to make a difference in the lives of our brothers and sisters worldwide.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Singing & St. Cecilia

According to the U.S. Catholic Bishops, “God has bestowed upon his people the gift of song.” In the document about music titled Sing to the Lord, the bishops go on to say that “God, the giver of song, is present whenever his people sing his praises.”

“A cry from deep within our being, music is a way for God to lead us to the realm of higher things. As St. Augustine says, “Singing is for the one who loves.” Music is therefore a sign of God’s love for us and of our love for him...By its very nature song has both an individual and a communal dimension. Thus, it is no wonder that singing together in church expresses so well the sacramental presence of God to his people.”

Singing is one of the primary ways that the assembly of the faithful participates actively in the liturgy. The people are encouraged to sing and reminded that “The quality of our participation in such sung praise comes less from our vocal ability than from the desire of our hearts to sing together of our love for God.” In other words, ignore all those people who told you that you can’t sing – you can and should because God wants to hear you sing!

Saint Cecilia is recognized as the patron saint of music, especially church music, because as she was dying a martyr’s death, she sang to God. It is also written that as the musicians played at her wedding, she “sang in her heart to the Lord.” St. Cecilia was born in the 2nd or 3rd century A.D., although the dates of her birth and martyrdom are unknown. A religious romance telling the love story of Saint Cecilia and Valerian, a pagan who later converted to Christianity, appeared in Greece during the 4th century A.D., and there is a biography of St. Cecilia dating from the 5th century A.D. Her feast day is celebrated on November 22nd, and musical tributes in honor of St. Cecilia are common this time of year. In our own parish, our combined choirs will present a St. Cecilia concert next Sunday, November 21st at 3:00 PM right here in the church, and you are all invited to attend and sing along.

Those choirs who faithfully lead us in sung prayer every Sunday understand that the most important function of music in the Mass is to unite us in a common act of worship. It is a unifying element that continually calls us to worship as one Body in Christ.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Visiting the Imprisoned

In the Last Judgment story in Matthew 25, Jesus uses the analogy of a shepherd separating the sheep from the goats. The righteous sheep say, “Lord, when did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?” The king replies, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

In this parable, Jesus gives a clear command to those who would be his followers: visit those in prison. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews admonishes us to “Be mindful of prisoners as if sharing their imprisonment.” (Hebrews 13:3)

How can we respond to Jesus’ call to visit those in prison?

Those who visit the imprisoned tend to be either family or friends, and chaplains. Most visitors need special permission, so one cannot simply get up in the morning and say: “Today I’m going to visit prisoners.” Consequently, prison visitation remains a fairly rare occurrence for most people.

While our legal system deals with the criminal aspect, the Church takes an active role in a more important element, that of conversion. Prison ministry can have profound effects in the lives of prisoners as well as others affected by crime. It is, first of all, an opportunity to help the prisoner understand his or her actions, since often there is denial of wrongdoing. Comprehensive prison ministry recognizes that families of prisoners as well as the victims and their families must be ministered to; their pain cannot be dismissed. But the main goal of ministry to the incarcerated is salvation. Prisoners can experience a deeper, more expansive freedom, even while incarcerated, if they welcome the gospel of Jesus Christ into their lives. Volunteers in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe provide religious education, caring visits, or pastoral counseling.

When it comes to the families of prisoners, the most affected population is the children. These families have special challenges and issues that can be addressed so both parents and children can continue their relationships.

While many of us are not called to prison ministry, we can support those who are. Our Love Your Neighbor drive for November is collecting new toys for the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center’s Annual Christmas Party for families. The celebration is organized for children whose parents are incarcerated at BCMC. Since the parents cannot leave to shop for their children, the toys and games we donate become the “store” for them. Just as buying and donating peanut butter is “feeding the hungry,” our donation of toys makes us part of “visiting the imprisoned.”

Mixing Religion and Politics

It’s the end of October, and you know what that means: late at night, comfortable at home, you may be startled by the doorbell. As you open your door, you will be confronted by a scary sight: no, not children trick-or-treating for candy, but politicians looking for your vote!

In any given campaign year, we are bombarded with commercials, billboards, radio announcements, internet pop-ups, and signs in our neighbors’ yards telling us to vote for this candidate or that. Even here at our parish, in spite of our pastor’s protests, pamphlets have been placed on cars in the parking lot every Sunday for weeks.

What’s the deal? Shouldn’t we be keeping religion and politics far, far apart? Isn’t there supposed to be a separation of church and state?

A misconception among many Christians is that we must keep our faith life apart from our secular life. In truth, participation in political life on the part of Catholics and all Christians is vital, necessary, and essential. This is the bishops’ message in the document Faithful Citizenship. We are all bound by our baptismal call to go out into the world, preaching Jesus’ message of salvation, love, and compassion.

For Catholics, keeping faith separate from other parts of our lives is impossible. Our faith is an integral part of who we are. We come to Mass every Sunday and are transformed by both the Word of God and the Body and Blood of Christ. That transformation is not something that can be turned off and on, depending on whether you are at church or in the voting booth.

So what is a Catholic voter to do?

As Catholics, we believe that a well-informed conscience is essential in any political decision. We have an obligation to carefully discern the decisions we make about the future of our country. We form our consciences as we listen to and live the Gospel. Each of us, as we grow older and wiser, has the opportunity to develop our own thoughts and opinions on the issues facing our country. We also have an obligation to educate ourselves about the candidates and the impact of proposed statutes. It’s very plain: neither political party represents the fullness of the Church’s teaching of the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. If we simply vote based on party lines or by randomly choosing candidates, we are committing a disservice to our country, to ourselves, and, more importantly, to our faith.

Our vote in any election should be the result of our careful discernment of the issues and candidates. The Catholic Church does not tell you who to vote for, but the Church does offer opportunities in forming your conscience which will help you make good decisions in the voting booth.

Friday, October 22, 2010

World Youth Day

World Youth Day is a day to celebrate youth and young adults in all of their diversity and goodness, and to encourage these young people to lead the church both now and into the future. The bishops of the United States, wanting to place full attention on the youth of our nation, voted to move the celebration in the United States from Palm Sunday, when much of the world celebrates, to the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, this year celebrated on October 24th. During this weekend, parishes are invited to bless their young people, involve them in all aspects of the Mass, affirm their leadership, and invite them to use their gifts in service to the church and the world.

Each year, the pope prepares a message to the young people of the world. This year's theme is based on Mark 10:17, the story of Jesus' meeting with the inquisitive, rich young man. As Jesus was setting out on his journey, recounts the Gospel of St. Mark, "a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" After the man assures Jesus that he has observed all the commandments from his youth, “Jesus looked upon him,” Mark tells us, “and loved him.” He then tells the young man to go and sell his possessions and give everything to the poor. The young man goes away sad because, we are told, “he had many possessions.”

Because being Christian is about responding to the Word of God, Pope Benedict’s message to the young people of the world lists some of the challenges our young people must address now: the use of the resources of the earth and respect for the ecology; the just division of goods and the control of financial mechanisms; solidarity with poor countries; the struggle against hunger in the world; the promotion of the dignity of human labor; the building of peace between peoples; and the use of social communication, like email, texting, and Facebook, to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. The leader of our Church challenges our young people to be good stewards of their time, talents, and treasure, and to be counter-cultural when it comes to materialism. These are challenges to which all of us, but especially our young people, are called to respond to build a more just world.

As we celebrate World Youth Day, we pray for our young people. We recognize and affirm their gifts, and encourage their continued full and active participation in the life of our faith community.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Catholic Charities 100th Anniversary

On September 25, 1910, scores of people who served the poor across the country converged on the campus of Catholic University of America for the first official gathering of Catholic Charities organizations. The gathering served as a uniting force for people doing the Church’s work of charity in the United States. One of the results was the creation of Catholic Charities USA.

On September 25, 2010, Catholic Charities USA, now one of the largest associations of social service agencies in the country, celebrated its 100th anniversary. The Centennial provides an opportunity to highlight a history of providing help and creating hope for people on the margins. Catholic Charities has and will continue to advance a vision for our country in which individuals and communities have the chance to reach their full potential.

In 2008, Catholic Charities agencies provided help and created hope for 8.5 million people regardless of their religious, social, or economic backgrounds. Catholic Charities’ services strengthened families, built strong communities, responded to natural disasters, and provided food, shelter, and other basic needs.

Every Catholic can take pride in these accomplishments because Catholic Charities is a part of the Church, the body of Christ. Few partnerships have been as strong and fruitful as the one between Catholic Charities and parishes: parishes have been on the frontlines of compassion; Catholic Charities have reinforced their efforts through service and advocacy.

Recognizing the potential and responsibility of this Centennial anniversary, Catholic Charities USA is calling all parishes to continue to stand in solidarity with them in this moment of celebration and recommitment.

Back in September, for two weeks in a row, the readings from the prophet Amos and Saint Paul’s letter to Timothy reminded us that concern for the poor is at the heart of our Church teachings. In the Gospel story of Lazarus and the rich man, we learned that being a disciple of Jesus is not about random acts of kindness but about the ability to be in solidarity with those who are on the other side of “gate,” the poor. We are challenged to open our eyes to the inequities in society, and urged to love and care for those who cry out in need.

Catholic Charities carries out this love in an organized way. As we celebrate with Catholic Charities, we at Risen Savior commit to care for and stand with those on the margins, to serve those most in need, now and for the next 100 years.

Friday, October 8, 2010

End-of-Life Part III: Advanced Directives and Aggressive Treatment

This is the last in a series of 3-Minute Catecheses on end-of-life issues and how the Church expects us to respond when death is near.

The Church takes seriously her role in educating about the sanctity of life at all levels. The concern is that we seem to be becoming a society in which life is not respected and cherished. People are expendable if they make us angry or inconvenience us in some way. Just this last week, one of the young men working on our landscaping project was killed by drug dealers in a case of mistaken identity when he went to visit his family in Mexico. Life is often not treated as the precious gift that it is.

So what happens if you or a loved one become seriously ill? Can Catholics have Advanced Directives, including Do Not Resuscitate orders?

The Catholic Church does not prohibit Advanced Health Directives which lay out in written form what your wishes are in case you are unable to communicate. However, Advanced Directives can be morally problematic because they require a person to make blanket general statements about possible scenarios in the future.

That is why, from the Church’s point of view, it is far more preferable to have a health care proxy. A health care proxy is an actual person whom you have designated to stand in your place and make a health care decision on your behalf. Such a person is able to assess the totality of your circumstances in a way that is sensitive to the conditions of your situation.

While true compassion encourages every reasonable effort for the patient's recovery, at the same time, it helps draw the line when it is clear that no further treatment will serve this purpose. The decision to forego aggressive treatment is an expression of the respect that is due to the patient at every moment. From the patient's perspective, this is not "giving up" nor disregarding the obligation to care for oneself: rather, it is an acceptance of the human condition in the face of life-threatening illness. It is at this point that many patients and their families opt for hospice care, which often allows the patient to die, in peace, at home.

The Church understands that thoughts of death are accompanied by mixed feelings, conflicted between hope in immortality on the one hand and fear of the unknown on the other. This is why Anointing within the Last Rites, which is less for physical healing than for spiritual healing and strength, is so important. Through the sacraments, the Church strives to give each dying person loving care as they prepare to cross the threshold of time to enter eternity.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Barrett House and Brother Mathias

Our “Love Your Neighbor” opportunity for October is collecting gift cards from family-friendly restaurants and grocery stores for women and their children residing at Barrett House.

Founded by Brother Mathias Barrett in 1985, Barrett House is an emergency shelter for women and children. Brother Mathias was the legendary friend of the homeless: his life's work was providing shelter to homeless men and women throughout the United States.

Brother Mathias was born Maurice Patrick Barrett on March 15, 1900 in Waterford, Ireland. At the age of 16, he entered the St. John of God order and took the name Mathias. Brother Mathias became a leading force not only as the North American Provincial of his Order, but in building many institutions such as hospitals, soup kitchens, and rehabilitation centers.

After retiring from his order, Brother Mathias came out west, and at the urging of Archbishop Byrne, he came to Albuquerque to establish a new order of brothers and a house for men on the road. The Congregation of the Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd was founded in 1951.

The Good Shepherd Refuge opened its doors to the homeless and poverty stricken. Adhering to the motto "Charity Unlimited," the Brothers of the Good Shepherd soon expanded outside of the Albuquerque region. If this Order sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because of the Corned Beef dinner served annually in Brother Mathias’ honor and memory on St. Patrick’s Day.

In addition to helping women and children affected by domestic abuse, Barrett House has a group home for women over 35 who have psychiatric disabilities, providing a permanent housing option. There is also a transitional housing program offering single women with or without children the opportunity to gain the skills necessary to live independently. In 1999, Casa Verde was established to provide affordable, permanent housing for women living with chronic mental illness.

Barrett Foundation also provides training and support needed to plan and establish a more stable future for the women it serves and their children. Clients receive assistance and information regarding health care, childcare, employment, substance abuse treatment, and mental health care. Two meals are served each day in addition to a sack lunch, and the women are provided with toiletries and clothing. Barrett House has a family room, a library with computers, laundry facilities, and indoor and outdoor play areas for the children.

The Barrett Foundation is living out the gospel message of caring for the poor and vulnerable in our society.

Friday, September 24, 2010

End-of-Life Issues: Persistent Vegetative State

Our 3-Minute Catechesis continues to address end-of-life issues and what our Church teaches regarding the treatment of patients who are nearing the end of their earthly existence. Morally, can food or water be withheld from dying patients? What about “pulling the plug”? What about the expressed wishes of the patient?

Our Catholic Faith has long taught - and today insists - that each and every human being has inherent dignity. This includes the patient in the so-called "vegetative" state, who cannot visibly respond to us. Pope John Paul II, in a March 2004 address, said that a patient in a “persistent vegetative state” is no "vegetable" but a human person loved by God. The value of a person’s life should not be based on what other people judge to be his or her “quality of life.” That patient, and his or her family, deserves the love and support of the entire community so they will not face their burdens alone.

End-of-life issues can be complicated. In that same speech, the Holy Father also said that food and water should "in principle" be considered an "ordinary and proportionate" means for sustaining these patients' lives. Such feeding, even if it requires some medical assistance, is "morally obligatory" as long as it serves its proper goals – effectively providing nourishment and alleviating suffering. This was a recognition that food and water are basic necessities, without which all of us would die. They should be provided when they serve patients' basic needs, the first of which is sustaining life itself.

As a compassionate people, we should endeavor to make our loved ones understand that they are not a burden to us when they are ill or infirm. As a faith-filled people with a belief in eternal life, we should encourage our family members to express their expectations regarding the care they want at the end of life – and then honor their wishes.

The teaching of Pope John Paul II about sickness and death came not only from his speeches, addresses, and encyclicals. He instructed just with his own witness in the face of injury, suffering, hospitalization, illness and dying. He taught us that to understand death with dignity we must first accept the dignity of life.

We are called to be heralds of a "culture of life." Christ's mission was to every human person, and our Lord had a passionate concern for the sick, the suffering, and the dying. In our own time, Christ continues his mission, and his preference for the vulnerable, through his Church.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

End of Life - Hospice

With a growing elder population in the United States, there are questions about the Church’s stand on issues like assisted suicide and euthanasia, and programs like hospice. Over the next weeks, we will be addressing end-of-life issues like these, and what the Church teaches.

End-of-life issues have been thrust into the spotlight in recent years by the debate surrounding several states’ attempts to legalize physician-assisted suicide. Supporters of physician-assisted suicide point to the potential physical suffering and loss of independence associated with terminal illnesses. They argue that when faced with the side effects of treatments like chemotherapy and the general loss of dignity, many patients achieve a sense of peace when told of alternatives, like taking an overdose of doctor-prescribed drugs. There are, however, very few doctors who support physician-assisted suicide and would be willing participate in this.
Additionally, providers of hospice care say that services are already available to help people with terminal illnesses live and die in comfort, control, and dignity, without the moral and practical problems raised by physician-assisted suicide.
What is hospice?

Hospice is care for people with a prognosis of less than six months to live. It aims to control the symptoms and pain associated with a patient’s condition rather than trying to cure it. But hospice is about more than just reducing pain: hospice treats the whole person, treating a patient’s body, mind, and spirit, as well as caring for the family of the patient, who is also affected by the terminal illness.

Contrary to the common misconception that “hospice equals death,” the philosophy of hospice is to neither hasten nor postpone death. Hospice is more about quality of life, and having that until the end of life, than it is about dying.

Hospice providers have become so good at alleviating physical suffering that unbearable pain is no longer a valid argument for assisted suicide. Additionally, the natural dying process allows for patients and their families to experience reconciliation, love, forgiveness: all of the stages that people need to go through to be able to die peacefully.

Last December, Pope Benedict paid a visit to Rome Hospice Foundation and praised the health care workers for the service they provided. Whoever has a sense of human dignity knows, the Pope said, that those with incurable illnesses should be respected and sustained while they face the difficulties and the suffering tied to their health conditions.

First and foremost on the mind of the Church is safeguarding life, our God-given gift.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Crosses and Crucifixes

Early in the 4th century, St. Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, went to Jerusalem in search of the holy places of Christ's life. She had the Temple of Aphrodite leveled, which tradition held was built over the Savior's tomb, and on that site, Emperor Constantine built the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher. During the excavation, workers found three crosses. Legend has it that the one on which Jesus died was identified when its touch healed a dying woman.

The cross immediately became an object of veneration. At a Good Friday celebration in Jerusalem toward the end of the 4th century, according to an eyewitness, the wood was taken out of its silver container, placed on a table, and touched and kissed by people passing by. Since that time, the Catholic Church has celebrated the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on September 14th, the anniversary of the Basilica's dedication.

In the Roman Church, altar crosses and processional crosses began to be crucifixes in the 11th century. What is the difference between a cross and a crucifix? The difference is that a crucifix has a corpus, which is Latin for body.
There are several reasons why the Catholic Church uses the crucifix as a symbol of our faith. One reason is St. Paul's statement in 1st Corinthians that "we proclaim Christ crucified.” Also, the crucifix is a symbol of what is happening in our liturgy: the re-presentation of the Crucifixion in a non-bloody manner on the altar in the form of the Eucharist.

Many Protestant denominations emphasize the Resurrection over the Crucifixion. Neither is complete in-and-of-itself, but each places a different emphasis on a part of the whole act of salvation offered by Christ. Both Catholics and Protestants recognize that the cross is the most familiar symbol of our Christian faith.

For many who have been at Risen Savior for a few years, the crucifix that hangs in our church has even more significant meaning because of where it came from. The cross was specially made by a parishioner for the corpus, which was donated by Father Edward Rivera. Shortly after his ordination in June of 2003, Father Ed was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and after serving this parish for just over a year, he entered eternity.

As you consider the crosses you bear in life, especially on the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross, remember that you have blessed company, and your path is marked with the footprints of your Lord.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Clothing the Naked

The first mention of clothes in the Bible is in the first book, Genesis. After Adam and Eve eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked.” (Genesis 3:7) This led them to sew some figs leaves into loincloths to wear. Since that time, human beings have been covering their bodies with clothing. Modesty is one of the reasons, but there are practical reasons as well: clothes protect us from the elements of snow, rain, and sun, as well as the bites and stings of insects and wild animals.

There are several hundred references to clothing in Scripture. Some passages describe clothing while others dictate how God’s people are expected to dress. Clothing is mentioned figuratively in Scripture as well: in Psalm 104, God is praised as being “… clothed with majesty and glory...”

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus objected to people who dressed elaborately to seem more religious (Mark 12:38). Teaching in the synagogue, He said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept … seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets… They will receive a very severe condemnation."

We may not know what Jesus looked like, but we know what He wore: John says that Jesus' garment was woven in one seamless piece. In Luke, we are told of a suffering woman who was healed when she touched the tassel on Jesus’ cloak. In this instance, we understand Jesus’ cloak to be an extension of His very self.

The letter of James says that “If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well," but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?” (James 2:15-16)

Our Love Your Neighbor initiative for September is collecting clothing for the P.T.A. Clothing Bank. You will find specific needs listed in the lobby, the bulletin, and the Ministry Monthly. Since the number of homeless students is growing, the need is great. As you go through your closets at home, keep in mind that the idea is to donate clothes in such condition that we ourselves would be willing to wear them. In Matthew 25, Jesus said, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Right Hand

Why do we make the Sign of the Cross using the right hand rather than the left? Is there a Scriptural preference for the right hand? If so, why?

Scripture has several words translated "right" and the use of the term "right hand" can have a variety of meaning: a direction; the opposite of wrong; what is just; or a place of honor or authority. In the case of bestowing a blessing in the Bible, the right hand or right side came first, and was the greater blessing. This is seen in Genesis 48, when Jacob, before he dies, purposely crosses his arms to put his right hand on the head of Joseph’s younger son, standing at his left, to give him a greater blessing than his brother.

The Bible contains over 100 favorable references to the right hand. In Matthew 25, Jesus places the sheep – who are going to heaven – on his right hand, but places the goats – who are not going to heaven – on his left. And we recite in the Nicene Creed that Jesus is "seated at the right hand of the Father.”

Where does this right-handed preference come from? To answer that question, we have to go back in history.

One theory is that in the hunter-gatherer period, women needed to hunt alongside the men and protect their young children. The woman carried the infant on the left side of her body where the heartbeat is stronger, keeping the infant more secure and quiet, leaving the right hand for throwing spears. This may have led to preferential right-handedness.

In Medieval times, an open right hand indicated you were not carrying a weapon. If two men met and displayed empty right hands, they could assume they would not be attacked by the other. This evolved into the handshake.

Scientists estimate anywhere from 70-95% of people are right-handed. Probably because of this, the right hand is traditionally the hand of blessing and greeting in many cultural settings.

By contrast, the left hand has, in many cultures, a different set of traditional associations. For example, in Islam, the left hand is seen as unclean, stemming from a Middle Eastern custom of using the left hand for hygienic purposes.

In Latin, the word for “right” is dexter while the word for “left” is sinister. Many people, even today, associate left-handedness with evil, but in most educated populations, this is considered superstition. Nevertheless, for many of the reasons listed above, the sign of the cross has traditionally been made with the right hand.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Sign of the Cross

Watching the recent World Cup soccer games or other athletic events, you may notice how many players bless themselves with the Sign of the Cross during a game. Some athletes may be putting themselves in God’s presence, while others are thinking that there is magic in this gesture of faith. Even in formal prayer, the Sign of the Cross can be routine, just the traditional way of starting and ending prayer. But this gesture is so much more.

The Sign of the Cross is the most often used prayer of Christians and probably the first prayer we learned as children. As simple as it seems to us, the Sign of the Cross is more than just a gesture – it is an ancient prayer. References to it appear in writings dating back to 240 A.D.

Initially, the Sign of the Cross was made with the thumb, usually on the forehead, but sometimes on the lips and chest. This small Sign of the Cross was in common use by the end of the 4th century and is still used today at every Mass, with the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Anointing of the Sick. It is also used for the R.C.I.A. Rite of Signing and marking the forehead with ashes on Ash Wednesday.

By the 6th century, people were using the first two fingers, held together to make a wider Sign of the Cross, touching the forehead, chest, and shoulders. The two fingers symbolized the divine and human natures of Christ.

The use of three fingers became popular in the 9th century. The thumb and first two fingers were held outstretched together to symbolize the Trinity, while the remaining two fingers were bent to signify Christ's two natures. This form is still used in Eastern Christian churches, where the right shoulder is touched before the left.

By the end of the Middle Ages, the Western Church had adopted the practice of making the large Sign of the Cross with an open hand and touching the left shoulder before the right. This is the form we Roman Catholics continue to use today.

When we make the Sign of the Cross on ourselves, we aren’t doing anything “magical.” Rather, we are expressing our belief in God and the Trinity and reminding ourselves of God's love for us, of the sacrifice Jesus made to give us eternal life, and of the presence of the Holy Spirit within us.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Feast of the Assumption of Mary

On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII solemnly declared: “By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”

In spite of the 1950 pronouncement, the Feast of the Assumption goes back to apostolic times. It was originally celebrated in the East, in the areas around Turkey and Greece, where it is known as the Feast of the Dormition, a word which means "the falling asleep."

Like the doctrine of the Trinity, the Assumption is not explicitly mentioned in Scripture. The Roman Catholic Church declared this dogma based on three things: the historic teaching of the Church down the centuries, the scholastic arguments in favor of it, and its interpretations of biblical sources.

One of those biblical sources is the book of Revelation, where the author John writes about his heavenly vision: "Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple." (Rev. 11:19) Immediately after seeing the Ark of the Covenant in heaven, John continues: "And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child." (Rev. 12:1–2) The woman is Mary, the Ark of the Covenant, revealed by God to John.

The Ark of the Covenant was the chest that held the two stone tablets of law which Moses brought down from Mount Sinai and was also “a sanctuary” for God, that he “may dwell in their midst.” (Ex. 25:8). Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant: as the mother of Jesus, she provided a place for God to dwell – in her womb. God honored Mary by taking her, body and soul, into Heaven.

In the U.S., there are many cities that have Assumption Day parties with music, dancing, parades and fireworks, with one of the largest festivals taking place in Cleveland, Ohio. This, however, pales in comparison to the extravagant celebrations in more than 50 countries around the world, where the Assumption is celebrated on August 15th as a public holiday. How wonderful that our Blessed Mother is remembered on her heavenly birthday!

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Transfiguration

On Friday, August 6th, the Church celebrated the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. The word “transfiguration” comes from the Latin trans, which mean across, and figurare, which means form or shape. The Transfiguration was the change in appearance of Christ before his disciples.

All three Synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – tell the story of the Transfiguration. Jesus led his select disciples, Peter, James and John, up on a high mountain. In the Old Testament, mountains are sacred places where people encounter God. The same is true here. What started as a mountain retreat quickly changed as Jesus was transformed right before the eyes of the disciples. Matthew says that Jesus’ face shone like the sun, and both Matthew and Mark use the word transfigured to describe what happened to Jesus. For this brief time, Jesus took on an appearance more appropriate for the King of Glory than for a humble man.

God’s voice comes from a cloud overshadowing the mountain and He reveals to the disciples that Jesus is His beloved Son. Moses, representing the law, and Elijah, representing the prophets, also appear with Jesus. The appearance of these two Old Testament heroes confirms that Jesus is the fulfillment of both the Law and the prophets.

Inquiring minds want to know: since there weren’t photographs of Old Testament people and not even good written descriptions, how did the disciples know that the men who appeared with Jesus were Elijah and Moses? Scripture doesn’t say. It seems that the disciples just knew. This perhaps illustrates that we will instinctively know each other when we get to heaven.

With remarkable agreement, the three evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke place the event shortly after Peter’s confession of faith that Jesus is the Messiah and Jesus’ first prediction of his passion and death. One of the Transfiguration accounts is read on the second Sunday of Lent each year, proclaiming Christ’s divinity to catechumens and baptized alike. The Gospel for the first Sunday of Lent, by contrast, is the story of the temptation in the desert – affirmation of Jesus’ humanity. The two distinct but inseparable natures of the Lord – his humanity and divinity – are revealed.

The witnessing of the Transfiguration by Peter, James, and John didn’t just involve the changed appearance of Jesus – it changed how they looked at him. Even if they failed to fully understand what we understand today – that Jesus was God become man – they knew that he shared a special connection with God and with the revered Old Testament prophets.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A Short History of Catholic Education in the United States

When and where the first Catholic "school" began in this country – or the names of the teacher and pupils – remains a mystery: Was it a Spanish Franciscan with a few children in a mission outpost? A member of an early French exploration party, quietly teaching and preaching? A chaplain holding class for young ship's apprentices on the beach where some 16th Century vessel had just anchored? It's hard to say.

What is clear is that Catholic education goes back deep into U.S. history – to at least 1606. That year, expressing their desire to teach children the basics of Christian doctrine, along with reading and writing, the Franciscans opened a school in what is now St. Augustine, Florida. Further north and a bit later, Jesuits instructed such dedicated Native American students as Kateri Tekakwitha, who then taught Indian children in a Christian settlement near Montreal.

Not long after the Revolution ended came the establishment in 1789 of the Catholic school of Georgetown, not so much a college then as an academy for boys aged 10 to 16. Meanwhile, across the continent, the Franciscans were busy establishing the California mission system, whose ministry included the education of Native Americans. The post-Civil War period brought the development of religious orders like Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, founded by heiress Katharine Drexel to meet the educational needs of blacks and Native Americans. In fact, the first school she established was St. Catherine Indian School in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1887.

In 1900, an estimated 3,500 parochial schools existed in the United States. Nearly 400 years after that first known Catholic school opened in Florida – after two world wars, the election and assassination of John F. Kennedy, our first Catholic president, the reforms of Vatican II, the Vietnam War, the dawn of a new millennium – Catholic schools have been there for their families, community, nation and church.

Our Love Your Neighbor initiative for August is the support of St. Pius X High School and our young parishioners who attend the only Catholic High School in Albuquerque. Students will be selling raffle tickets to support the school on August 14th and 15th after all Masses. You may win a car, but even if you don’t, you have the satisfaction of knowing that your donation is supporting the formation of our young people attending Catholic schools.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Popular Devotions

In the Vatican II document Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the spiritual life of believers was addressed: “The spiritual life,” we are told, “is not limited solely to participation in the liturgy.... Popular devotions of the Christian people, provided they conform to the laws and norms of the Church, are to be highly recommended....”

What are “popular devotions” and are there any restrictions placed on them by the Church?

You may already be aware of some popular devotions: praying the Rosary, participating in Eucharistic Adoration, walking the Stations of the Cross during Lent, and reciting the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Because the Church is organic, new popular devotions often emerge and ancient devotions make a comeback. Some that have been gaining in popularity in the past decade are centering prayer, labyrinth, and Taizé.

Centering prayer is a form of contemplative prayer shaped by the spirituality of Catholic mystics like Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. It is inspired by Jesus instruction that "when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret." The goal of centering prayer is to "rest" quietly in God's presence.

A labyrinth is a pattern or design which originated in ancient times and has been adapted over the years by various religious traditions as a means of prayer and contemplation. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has a single path which leads to and from the center. In the Christian tradition, labyrinths became popular in the Middle Ages as a symbol of life's spiritual journey and as a substitute for pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Labyrinth prayer has been revived recently by various groups trying to popularize the mystical and contemplative traditions of Christian spirituality. The labyrinth is walked slowly in silence, with a focus on God's presence.

Taizé Prayer is a meditative style of prayer developed by a community of monks in central France. It is a distinctive style of meditative community prayer which uses the repetition of simple chants with periods of silence, readings from Scripture, prayers of praise, and intercession.

The Vatican II document puts these limits on devotions: “… such devotions should … harmonize with the liturgical seasons, accord with the sacred liturgy … and lead the people to it, since in fact the liturgy by its very nature is far superior to any of them.” So while popular devotions may lead one to a deeper relationship with God, they do not and cannot take the place of the official prayer of the Church that we call the Mass.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Anointing of the Sick vs "Last Rites"

What is the difference between Anointing of the Sick and Last Rites? This is an issue that can be confusing. The sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is one of the seven sacraments of the Church, and its purpose is the healing of body and spirit. This was part of Jesus’ ministry on earth: to heal the sick and forgive sins. This ministry was continued by the Apostles, to whom Jesus gave authority, and by their successors, the bishops and priests today.

Before Vatican II, Anointing of the Sick was only given when death was near; thus, it became synonymous with the Last Rites, and this is the reason there is confusion today. Vatican II, however, returned to the earlier understanding of the sacrament: that it was to be done both for the dying and for those seriously sick.

Ideally, Anointing of the Sick is given to someone at the beginning of an illness. It is also appropriate for someone preparing for serious surgery. There is no need to wait for imminent death to receive this sacrament. A person can request the sacrament from a priest at any time, and it can be repeated if the condition changes, or the situation becomes worse.

The Last Rites, on the other hand, are the last rites a person receives on this earth. The Last Rites can include three Sacraments: Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, and Eucharist or viaticum, which means “food for the journey.” These may be administered at one visit or on separate occasions, and although a lay person may administer viaticum, Reconciliation and Last Rites must be done by a priest.

If a person close to death is not able to communicate or swallow, the Last Rites may consist of only the Sacrament of Anointing. Since death is close, the priest may include special prayers for the dying. Anointing within the Last Rites is less for physical healing than it is for spiritual healing and strength. The Last Rites are given when death is certain, whereas the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick may be given and repeated whenever serious illness occurs.

People should not to wait for this sacrament of healing. At Risen Savior, Anointing of the Sick is celebrated every first Friday of the month. The graces bestowed by God in Anointing of the Sick give strength in times of illness, whether physical, emotional, or psychological, and grace doesn’t wear out or expire. We need God’s healing both of body and soul.

Friday, July 9, 2010

St. Irenaeus, A Father of the Church

The feast of St. Irenaeus (pronounced “ear-uh-NAY-us”) is celebrated in the summer. The first teachers of Christianity are collectively spoken of as "the Fathers,” and Irenaeus was one of the first Fathers of the Church. It is the extraordinary writings of this man that earned him a place of honor, works which laid the foundations of Christian theology and kept the young Catholic faith from the corruption of heresy.

Irenaeus was born around the year 125, in one of the maritime provinces of Asia Minor, in present-day Turkey. This is an area where the memory of the Apostles was strong and where Christians were already numerous. Irenaeus had the privilege of sitting at the feet of men who had known the Apostles. Of these, the one who made the deepest impression on him was St. Polycarp, a direct pupil of the apostle John. All through his life, Irenaeus told a friend, he could recall every detail of Polycarp's appearance, his voice, and the very words he used when telling what he had heard from John the Evangelist and others who had seen Jesus.

Irenaeus was sent to Gaul, modern-day France, to serve as a priest, and he eventually became a bishop.

The spread of a heresy known as Gnosticism led Irenaeus to thoroughly examine Gnostic doctrine. Gnosticism taught that the creator of the world of matter, the God of the Old Testament, was dark and brutal and was separate from the pure and spiritual God of light, depicted in the New Testament, from whom Jesus emanated. It taught that Jesus only appeared to be born and die, because He never would have allowed Himself to be contaminated by taking on human flesh. The Gnostic movement, with its denial of Christ's humanity, was problematic to the Church in one form or another for several centuries.

Irenaeus’ five-book discourse, Against Heresies, talks about the rebellious sects and the doctrines they promoted. Irenaeus utilized a systematic method of disputing heresies, ultimately contrasting them with the words of Scripture and the teachings of the Apostles. Above all, he cited the authoritative tradition of the Church of Rome, handed down from Peter and Paul through an unbroken succession of bishops. His books, written in Greek and quickly translated into Latin, were widely circulated, and from this time on, Gnosticism was no longer considered a serious threat.

While St. Irenaeus died around the year 203, his writings were used to dispute heretical teaching for many years after his death, earning him the title of “Church Father.”

Friday, July 2, 2010

Church Teaching and the Military

In the Beatitudes, Jesus tells us "blessed are the peacemakers" (Matt. 5:9). But elsewhere, Jesus acknowledges the legitimate use of force, telling the apostles, "let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one" (Luke 22:36). How are these passages to be reconciled? In broad terms, Christians must promote peace whenever possible and be slow to resort to the use of arms. But they must not be afraid to do so when it is called for: evil must not be allowed to remain unchecked.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraphs 2302-2317) authoritatively teaches what constitutes the just defense of a nation against an aggressor. Called the “Just War Doctrine,” it was first enunciated by St. Augustine in the 4th Century, and has since been adapted to modern times.

Some people have expressed doubts about the compatibility of any armed conflict with Catholic teaching on just war, and many disagree with the wars waged in the Middle East. Despite any misgivings or disagreements, it nevertheless remains that we have Catholic men and women serving overseas who are in need of spiritual, pastoral, and practical support.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services for the United States provides pastoral and spiritual services to those serving overseas. This is a special diocese created by Pope John Paul II in 1985 to serve members of the United States military. It has jurisdiction wherever American men and women in uniform serve.

In cooperation with the Blue Star Mothers, our “Love Your Neighbor” initiative for the month of July is collecting items for our military brethren serving overseas. Blue Star Mothers is a non-partisan, non-political, non-religious organization, supporting their military children while promoting patriotism. The troops are in need of practical, personal items, and they miss some of the comforts of home. Cash or check donations are also needed to ship the care packages. You will find lists and information in the bulletin and collection bins in the lobby.

When members of the military receive packages from home, and especially from our church, they know that they are also getting our love, prayers, and gratitude for their selfless service.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Holy Orders and the Priesthood

Christian ministry means walking in the footsteps of Jesus, imitating Him in His service to others, and continuing the work He began in His lifetime. Every Catholic is called and graced for Christian ministry, but there is a special call to ministry that only a few receive. It is the call to ordained ministry, to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders. The expression “Holy Orders” comes from the Letter to the Hebrews, where we read, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 5:6)

As the early Church grew in numbers, the bishop could no longer serve all the people entrusted to his care. So he ordained assistants to help him. Called presbyters, or priests, they were put in charge of smaller areas, or parishes, of the bishop’s assigned territory. The parish priest has since become the ordained minister with whom we are most familiar.

When many of us were children, it was clear who was a priest and who was not. Priests were the ones who did all the important things: they said Mass, heard confessions, and administered the sacraments. They knew all the answers, and they could talk out loud in Church!

Things are different now. Today, no one would consider the Mass to be the private affair of the priest. We understand that no one, aside from God, knows all the answers. And everyone talks in Church: we all pray the Mass and respond to the prayers.

Priests, however, have a special ministry. Through the sacrament of Holy Orders, the priest receives a special share in Christ’s own priestly ministry. “Since every priest in his own way assumes the person of Christ, he is endowed with a special grace,” and, therefore, is empowered to act in Christ’s name in a special way. (Ministry & Life of Priests, 12)

While the priest is the one who can consecrate the Eucharist and hear confessions, his number one task is “to preach the gospel.” (CCC #1564) To do this effectively, he is expected to understand the joys and sorrows of his parishioners: the difficulties in raising a family and facing serious illness, along with the happiness that comes from family additions and celebrating milestones. Our priests have a challenging task in being both “set apart” and “in the midst.”

Like the bishop, whose coworker he is, the priest shepherds the flock entrusted to his care, leads it in worship, and instructs it in the way of salvation. The sacrament of Holy Orders gives him the grace to do this well.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Celebrating Sacraments During Sunday Mass

It’s Saturday or Sunday – time for Mass. When you walk into the sanctuary, you observe that the pew where you normally sit has a “Reserved” sign on it: it’s saved for a family with a child making 1st Communion…or being baptized…or maybe even Confirmation. Maybe there are several “Reserved” pews. Why are children and sometimes adults receiving sacraments during Mass? Don’t the pastor and the staff understand that these disruptions add literally minutes to the sacrifice of the Mass?

Can’t sacraments like Baptisms, First Communions, and Confirmations be celebrated in ways that don’t disturb Sunday Mass for the rest of us? The short answer is yes – Baptisms can be celebrated outside of Mass completely, and those making First Communion and Confirmation could, and sometimes do, have their own special Mass.
But should these sacraments be celebrated outside of Sunday Mass?

Let’s pause for a moment and ask how Jesus would respond. In the Gospels, Jesus says to the Apostles, “Let the children come to Me, do not hinder them … for to such belongs the kingdom of God" (Mk. 10:14) and "Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mt. 18:3).

Pope John Paul II reflects, “How important children are in the eyes of Jesus...a child represents the joy not only of its parents but also the joy of the Church and the whole of society.”

The Rite of Baptism for Children strongly recommends that Baptisms take place on Sunday and include the active participation of the assembly along with all the elements of a genuine celebration. The obvious way to meet these recommendations is to incorporate the sacrament of Baptism into the parish Sunday Mass, a practice that is encouraged because it enables the entire community to be present.

Nothing touches, or teaches, an assembly more than the sight of a vulnerable baby dripping with the waters of baptism. Sharing Eucharist together after such an experience takes on a dimension which makes the inconvenience seem trivial. Watching a little girl or boy reverently receiving Holy Communion for the first time takes us back to a remembrance of our own First Communion, such a special time. Seeing the bishop anoint the forehead of a young man or woman confirming their Faith and devotion to this Church stirs the hope in our hearts.

We are the Body of Christ, and, to feed our own souls with joy and hope, we need to participate in the celebration of the sacraments with joyful hearts.

Friday, June 11, 2010

What is Canon Law?

Coming across references to canon law is no longer uncommon for Catholic lay people, perhaps because of the rise in annulments or maybe due to the shortage of priests. Whatever the reason, most of us have heard of canon law. But what is it? Where did it come from?

Every organization, whether secular or religious, requires its own laws and customs in order to maintain order. Within the Catholic Church, the internal legal system that governs its day-to-day workings is known as canon law. The word canon comes from the old Greek word kanon with a “k”, which means “reed.” In the ancient world, a reed symbolized the authority to rule; so the word canon means “to rule” or “the rule of law.”

Canon law is a fully developed legal system, with all the necessary elements: courts, lawyers, judges, a fully articulated legal code and principles of legal interpretation.

In response to the request of the bishops at the First Vatican Council, work began on the Code of Canon Law, which was completed in 1917 and came into force on May 19, 1918. Revisions which began after the Second Vatican Council became the 1983 Code of Canon Law to distinguish it from the 1917 Code. Like the preceding edition, it applies to Roman Catholics of the Latin Rite.

There are 1,752 canons dealing with everything from the celebration of sacraments to what’s necessary for annulling a marriage; from who can bless a church to what feast days must be observed.

Some of the canons require long explanations, while others are not as complicated. Canon 104 says that “Spouses are to have a common domicile … by reason of legitimate separation or some other just cause, both can have their own domicile ...” Basically, married people should share a house, but for certain reasons may live apart.

Canon 110 says that “Children who have been adopted according to the norm of civil law are considered the children of the person or persons who have adopted them.” That canon doesn’t require much explanation!

The very last canon, Canon 1572, reminds us that canon law has a noble purpose: “… (T)he salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law in the Church, is to be kept before one’s eyes.”

And while parochial vicars may be moved frequently, Canon 522 says that, ideally, the pastor of a parish should “possess stability and therefore is to be appointed for an indefinite period of time.” In other words, we are stuck with Monsignor Olona! Isn’t it good to know that canon law can work in our favor!

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Catholic Response to Hunger

One of the surest ways to test the quality of our walk with God is to examine the way we respond to the needs of others. In June, the community of Risen Savior is responding to our brothers and sisters who are hungry.

Hunger is the most extreme form of poverty. Most contemporary American church-goers are “wealthy” in comparison to much of the world’s population and most – thanks be to God – never experience hunger.

The United States Conference of Bishops issued a pastoral reflection in 2002 titled “A Place at the Table.” This document says that “A table is where people come together for food. For many, there is not enough food, and, in some cases, no table at all…In our world and nation, many of our sisters and brothers live in poverty.

The causes are complex, but the results are clear. They cannot find decent work, feed their families, educate their children, secure health care, or find adequate housing … Millions of families cannot live in dignity because they lack the conditions worthy of human life.”

Catholic Social Teaching recognizes that all people, by benefit of their status as children of God, are entitled to an equitable share of the benefits of society. The two areas of Catholic Social Teaching are charity and justice. Charity is a call to share what God has entrusted to us. Justice involves efforts to bring about systemic change. Addressing hunger from a faith perspective is not an “either-or” proposition when it comes to justice and charity: it is “both-and”.

Locally, one out of six New Mexicans are at risk of going hungry everyday, and so our “Love Your Neighbor” initiative for June is collecting non-perishable food items for Roadrunner Food Bank of New Mexico. Roadrunner Food Bank collects and transports over 22 million pounds of food yearly. Food comes from a variety of sources including national and local manufacturers, supermarkets, and food drives. Since its inception thirty years ago, Roadrunner has distributed more than 200 million pounds of food statewide. Donation barrels will be all around the church for the entire month of June.

The bishops remind us that “As Catholics, we must come together with a common conviction that we can no longer tolerate the moral scandal of poverty in our land and so much hunger and deprivation in our world…Our faith teaches us that poor people are not issues or problems but sisters and brothers in God’s one human family.”

Friday, May 28, 2010

Catholic Social Teaching and Voting

Do you ever consider what Adam and Eve discussed in the Garden of Eden? Do you think they conversed endlessly about the beauty all around them and how glorious it was to be alive? Or do you think they complained about the lack of good roads and health care and the need for clear signage around a certain tree?

Who knows what they talked about, but sometimes it seems like our conversations with one another often center on what is wrong with society. Taxes are too high, the speed limit is too low, crime is up, and morale is down. Yet, when the opportunity to change things comes along – the chance to vote in elections – we decline. It’s too much trouble, and it won’t make any difference in my life anyway, right?

While we are called to love ourselves because we are made in the image and likeness of God, we are also called to look out for others. In Scripture, God makes it clear that not only are we our brother’s keeper, but our neighbor’s keeper as well – and our neighbor is everyone. Jesus’ message in the story of the Good Samaritan was that we should love everyone, including our enemies, and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

This Golden Rule, coupled with the Great Commandment to “love God and love your neighbor as yourself,” forms the basis of Catholic Social Teaching, which is a blueprint for taking care of one another. The principles of Catholic Social Teaching include the right to life and dignity of the human person, the dignity of workers and their rights, caring for God’s creation, and the rights and responsibilities necessary to foster the common good.

The Catholic Church does great works of charity and supports the common good, and these efforts can be multiplied through the far-reaching scope of local and national governments.

As our conversations turn from the blessings of life to the ills of society, let us remember our responsibility to one another and the power we have to effect change.

The Catholic Church does not tell us how to vote. However, the Church does provide, though Catholic Social Teaching, principles which should guide our consciences. Become a knowledgeable voter by taking the time to study the issues and candidates. Talk about them at the dinner table with your children so that you can help them form a political conscience as well. As Catholics, we are called to mix religion and politics as faithful citizens.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Pentecost and New Beginnings

In Judaism, there is a major festival that commemorates when the first fruits were harvested and brought to the Temple, as well as the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. While Passover freed the Jews physically from bondage, the giving of the Torah redeemed the people spiritually from bondage to idolatry and immorality. This feast, Shavu'ot, is also known as Pentecost – which means 50 – because it falls on the 50th day following Passover; however, it bears no similarity to the Christian holy day of Pentecost, which occurs 50 days after Easter.

Pentecost is one of the most ancient feasts of the Christian Church, mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles and St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians. For the followers of Jesus, it supplants the Jewish feast of Pentecost. The second chapter of Acts recounts the story. Jews from all over were gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish feast. On that Sunday, the Apostles and Mary were gathered in the Upper Room, where they had seen Christ after His Resurrection. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to preach the Gospel in all of the languages that the Jews who were gathered there spoke, and about 3,000 people were converted and baptized that day.

On this day, with the descent of the Holy Spirit, Christ's mission is completed, and the New Covenant is inaugurated.

In many Eastern churches, the entire period between Easter and Pentecost Sunday was known as Pentecost, and during that time, both fasting and kneeling were strictly forbidden, because this period was supposed to give us a foretaste of the life of Heaven.

In more recent times, parishes celebrate the approach of Pentecost with the public recitation of the Novena to the Holy Spirit, mirroring the nine days of prayer in the Upper Room.

From Pentecost onward, the Church began her earthly pilgrimage that will be fulfilled one day in glory. The first community of believers in Jerusalem devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread, and to prayers.

The disciples recognized that Jesus’ Ascension marked not an end, but a beginning. As we remember and celebrate the many beginnings in the coming weeks and months – graduations from high school and college, summer weddings – let us remember to give thanks and glory to God, our Creator, for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Resurrection of the Body

Before His Ascension into Heaven, Jesus spent 40 days on earth, preparing his apostles for their mission of evangelization. In the story of the Emmaus journey, two of the disciples walk with Jesus but do not initially recognize Him. Why is this? Did His resurrected body really look that different?

The resurrection of the body has been doctrine for Christians for 2000 years. In the Nicene Creed, we state that we believe in “the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.” But do we really believe in the resurrection of our bodies? We say the words, but when it comes to the afterlife, millions of faithful Catholics seem to think that their souls alone count

The idea that the physical is bad and only the spiritual is good is a heresy. This mistaken teaching is one that church leaders have tried to eliminate from Christianity from its earliest days.

According to the Catechism, “From the beginning, Christian faith in the resurrection (of the body) has met with incomprehension and opposition.” So why is there so much resistance to the belief in bodily resurrection?

There are many reasons why Christians do not easily accept this doctrine. First, it defies what we know of science. How can something that has died be made to live again? How can bodies that have been cremated and remains scattered become whole again? Yet many beliefs held by Catholics are also hard for science to explain, like the real presence, and the virgin birth.

Maybe it’s because it’s so hard to love our bodies. It is easy to understand why, for example, the elderly and sick look toward an eternity without a body that has become a burden for them.

But anyone who remembers the best things about having a body – dancing and listening to music, shushing down a ski slope, smelling and tasting a freshly made cookie – can find great hope in the promise of a glorified body. If the Risen Jesus could walk through walls, and show up when and where he chose, how could our own raised bodies possibly be a hindrance? Won’t they enhance our experience of God?

The Catechism says that, “By death the soul is separated from the body, but in the resurrection God will give incorruptible life to our body, transformed by reunion with our soul. Just as Christ is risen and lives for ever, so all of us will rise at the last day.”

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Choosing Godparents

Think back to when you were baptized. Chances are, you were a tiny baby, and your parents and relatives gathered at the church around the baptismal font, along with your godparents. Okay, maybe you don’t remember, but someone no doubt has told you the story of your baptism! Who were your godparents? Why were they chosen? What were their qualifications, and what were their duties?

Canon law stipulates that godparents be at least 16 years old and have been fully initiated: that is, they have received the three sacraments of Baptism, First Eucharist, and Confirmation. The other requirements stipulate that parents should not be godparents for their own children, and that if two godparents are chosen, one must be male and one female.

Choosing godparents is not a decision to be made lightly: a great deal of consideration should go into the choice. Often, parents want to honor a special relative, or encourage a family friend to have a closer relationship with their child. While the intentions are good, these are not sufficient reasons for asking someone to be a godparent.

Godparents should be role models in the Faith, people who are active, practicing Catholics. They should be men and women who are comfortable in their relationship with God, who feel at home in the Catholic Church. Beyond going to a preparation class with the parents, and holding and speaking for the child at Baptism, they should be people who are interested in the faith formation of their godchild and willing to offer support in the years ahead.

If we remember a few basic things about Baptism – that it gives a person a new and special status as a child of God, and it makes a person a member of the Body of Christ – then what you are looking for are godparents who can truly represent that Christian community.

You may be surprised to learn that it is occasionally permitted for a non Catholic Christian to be designated a “Christian witness” to a baptism. Though not officially a godparent, such an individual can still function as a role model for someone who is trying to learn about Christian discipleship. In such situations, another person should be designated as the official godparent, someone who fits into the traditional categories.

Godparents, hand-in-hand with the parents and faith formation teachers in the church community, are invaluable assets to our children as they journey and grow in faith.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Mary and Motherhood

In one of his encyclicals, Pope Paul VI says “… May is the month which the piety of the faithful has especially dedicated to Our Blessed Lady." During this month, Catholics honor Mary as the Mother of God and as our Mother. This custom of dedicating the month of May to the Blessed Virgin began at the end of the 13th century, and over the centuries spread to the whole Church.

In May of 2002, Pope John Paul II said, "Today we begin the month dedicated to Our Lady, a favorite of popular devotion … celebrating it with many devout liturgical, catechetical and pastoral initiatives!" In honor of Mary, Risen Savior in May is supporting organizations who work to safeguard the unborn.

In the past, the Catholic Church has been attacked for her anti-abortion stance, criticized because there are so many children already in the world who lack homes and families. It is true that there are many children who, through no fault of their own, do not have a place to call home or people to call family. So why do we object to abortion? Because, as Catholics, we believe that “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.”

Since we are people of action, members of a Church that is the largest charitable organization in the world, we not only talk the talk, we walk the walk, providing practical help to those women who choose life for their babies.

Our parish’s “Love Your Neighbor” initiative for May is collecting items for two Pro-Life Groups: Birthright and The Gabriel Project. Both organizations help women distressed by an unplanned pregnancy, regardless of their circumstances. They offer support, and each woman receives help in planning constructively for her child’s future and her own. Isn’t this what Jesus would do?

Neither organization charges for its services, but relies on donations and volunteers to continue helping pregnant women in need. There will be bins in our lobby to collect new baby clothes, maternity clothes, diapers, and unopened containers of formula and lotion. On Mother’s Day Weekend, after all the Masses, Confirmation families and members of our Pro-Life Ministry will be helping with the Birthright Carnation Benefit. Your donation goes to Birthright, and in return, you honor your mother, grandmother, daughter, aunt – all the wonderful women in your life – with beautiful flowers and corsages!

During the month of May, we honor motherhood as the blessing it is, and in doing so, we honor Mary, Queen of Families and Blessed Mother of the Church.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Home Missions

“Strengthening the Church at Home" is the theme for the Catholic Home Missions Appeal which is scheduled nationally for this weekend. It is our second collection today. When it comes to these special collections, parishioners often ask, “What is this? And how will this money be used?”

The Catholic Home Missions Appeal was established by the Bishops in 1997 as a way for Catholics in more prosperous communities like ours to assist our fellow Catholics in places where the Church struggles just to keep parishes open. There are many more such communities in this country than people realize.

Ninety U.S. dioceses (out of 195) rely on this appeal to assist with the basic work of the Church: youth ministry, training lay ministers, educating seminarians, training deacons, religious education, working with growing populations of minority Catholics, evangelization, and migrant ministry.

Some Catholics who think they don't know what a "home mission" is might be surprised to learn they have traveled through one. Anyone who has ever visited eastern Kentucky or Tennessee, driven through rural Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, or spent time on the Mexican border has been in mission territory. The little brick or clapboard or adobe churches seen along the way are representative of the home missions. The Appeal also benefits Catholic communities in American territories like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

The Archdiocese of Anchorage has 19 active priests to serve the towns and villages of central Alaska; our neighboring Diocese of Lubbock has 34 priests to cover 62 parishes and missions. There are only 70 priests in the State of Utah, 57 in Idaho, and 45 in Wyoming.

This year, Catholic Home Missions Appeal turns its focus to youth ministry, an essential component of the life and vibrancy of the Church. In youth ministry programs, young Catholics grow in faith and gain valuable leadership skills. We take for granted the wonderful Youth Ministry opportunities we have here at Risen Savior, thanks to your support. But without this appeal, poorer dioceses in the United States cannot sustain vital youth programs.

As we continue to recover from the economic downturn, it is important to remember our Catholic brothers and sisters in the United States whose dioceses are financially fragile even in the best of times. They rely on financial assistance from the Catholic Home Missions Appeal to strengthen the Church at home.