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, 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.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Visions and Private Revelations

In May 1917, a beautiful Lady who said she came from Heaven first appeared to three shepherd children in Portugal. Two months later, the Lady gave the heart of her message to the children, in what is known as the great Secret of Fatima. How does the Catholic Church respond to visions like the ones at Fatima and Lourdes?

The Church’s stance on visions and private revelations can be found in what we believe Jesus Himself reveals. The Catholic Church teaches that Jesus Christ alone offers the fullness of God’s revelation to us. In His life, His mission, His suffering, death, resurrection and ascension, God’s Son reveals to us the love of the Father through the Holy Spirit. The apostles witnessed to the truth of the resurrection and, in time, the gospels were set down in writing. Together, Scripture and Tradition form one single deposit of revelation which the Church preserves, preaches from, and interprets in the light of present day needs.

Thus, the Second Vatican Council, citing Paul's First Letter to Timothy (vs 6:14) and His Letter to Titus (vs 2:13), taught, “… no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In other words, the Council teaches that everything that God chooses to communicate to us for our salvation has been done so in Jesus and that no new “public” revelation will be given before Christ comes a second time in glory to this world of ours. This does not mean that the content of revelation as given in Jesus cannot be understood anew or interpreted freshly given the situation of the world. It simply means that nothing will be added.

In the history of Christian mysticism, there are many examples of Christians mystics who have claimed a private experience which communicates or reveals the activity of God. The appearances of Mary at Lourdes and Fatima fall into this category of private revelation. Even though the Church considers these apparitions to be credible, they are not held by the Church to be part of the content of doctrine or teaching. The approval is stated in the negative: that there is nothing there which would harm the faith. As for the Marian apparitions at Medjugorje, the Church has not yet concluded its investigation, although many pilgrims have visited this site and found solace and encouragement to their faith.

As we find inspiration in these apparitions or mystical experiences, we understand that none of these supersedes the Christ event.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Divine Mercy Sunday

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. What does that mean? On the Second Sunday of Easter in 2000, at the Mass for the Canonization of St. Faustina Kowalska, Pope John Paul II proclaimed to the world that “from now on throughout the Church” this Sunday will be called “Divine Mercy Sunday.”

The story of the Divine Mercy movement began with Sister Faustina, a young, uneducated nun in a convent in Cracow, Poland during the 1930's. She came from a very poor family that struggled on their little farm during the years of World War I. She had only three years of very simple education, so hers were the humblest tasks in the convent, usually in the kitchen or garden. However, she received extraordinary revelations or messages from Jesus. Sister Faustina recorded these experiences in notebooks, and the words she wrote are God's loving message of Divine Mercy.

Though the Divine Mercy message is not new to the teachings of the Church, Sister Faustina's diary sparked a great movement and a strong and significant focus on the mercy of Christ. Pope John Paul II, who was also Polish, called St. Faustina "the great apostle of Divine Mercy in our time."

The Divine Mercy message is a simple one. First, ask God for His Mercy. Second, show mercy to others. Third, trust in Jesus.

While the name of the Sunday changed, Divine Mercy Sunday is not a new feast established to celebrate St. Faustina’s revelations. In fact, it is not about St. Faustina at all. The Second Sunday of Easter was already a solemnity as the Octave Day of Easter: St. Augustine, in teaching about the Easter Octave, the eight days following Easter, called them “the days of mercy and pardon,” and the Octave Day itself “the compendium of the days of mercy.” So, liturgically, the day has always been centered on the theme of divine mercy and forgiveness. It points us to the merciful love of God that lies behind the whole Paschal Mystery – the whole mystery of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ – made present for us in the Eucharist. It is important to remember that the message of The Divine Mercy, revealed to St. Faustina and to our present generation, is not new. It is a powerful reminder of who God is and has been from the very beginning.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Symbols of Easter

There are many symbols of Easter, some of which began as part of pagan celebrations of Spring, and others which have been commandeered by secular society. Where do we find Christianity in these symbols?

The Easter Bunny originated with an Anglo-Saxon pagan festival where the goddess Eastre was worshipped through her earthly symbol, the rabbit. The Germans brought the symbol of the Easter Bunny to America. For Christians, rabbits, which are prolific in Spring, are a symbol of abundant new life.

From the earliest times, the egg was a symbol of rebirth or the start of new life in many cultures. For the faithful, Lent was a time to abstain from eggs and dairy products like milk and cheese, so these food items were eaten during Easter celebrations. While some cultures dyed the eggs with the petals of Spring flowers, Orthodox Easter Eggs are dyed red to represent the blood of Christ and the shell of the egg symbolizes the tomb of Christ – the cracking of which symbolizes His Resurrection.

While the origin of Easter eggs can be explained in symbolic terms, a legend among followers of Eastern Christianity says that Mary Magdalene was bringing cooked eggs to share with the other women at the tomb of Jesus, and the eggs in her basket miraculously turned brilliant red when she saw the Risen Christ.

A lamb is a symbol of Easter because Christians view Jesus Christ as "The Lamb of God.” For our Jewish friends, the lamb of Passover was sacrificed and its blood was placed on the doorposts of the Hebrew slaves. The homes were then “passed over” by the angel of death immediately before the Exodus. Passover was a feast of freedom and promise. Early Christians saw that the Lord Himself was the Passover lamb. In the Person of Jesus, Christians experience freedom from death and the promise of eternal life.

Since the first Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325, the cross has been the official symbol of Christianity and one that has not been commandeered by secularism. The cross – as opposed to the crucifix, which always includes the Body of Christ – is a sign of the Resurrection precisely because there is no body: Jesus Christ has transcended the cross.

As you celebrate this highest of holy days and the Feast Day of our Risen Savior Community, share with others the Christian perspective on these joyous symbols of the promises of Easter.