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.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Marriage and the Catholic Church, Part 1

In April of this year, Archbishop Sheehan issued a letter on Pastoral Care of Couples Who are Cohabitating, saying “We have three groups of people who are living contrary to the Gospel teaching on marriage: those who cohabit; those who have a merely civil union; and those who have a civil union who were married before.” For many couples, not following Church teaching on this matter is based on misunderstanding or ignorance of Church teaching on marriage.

We start with Canon Law – Church law – which tells us that the Church understands marriage as a “matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership …(for) the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring.”

Because a marriage exists through the consent exchanged by the spouses, the Church requires that both parties have the capacity to enter marriage, as well as:
• sufficient knowledge about marriage;
• the intention to enter marriage as the Church understands it; and
• the marriage celebrated before an authorized priest or deacon and two witnesses.
A valid marriage involves understanding and intention to live by these requirements and the ability to carry out this commitment.

Why does the Church have such strict requirements for marriage? Because Jesus Christ valued marriage highly. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus quotes Genesis, saying, “they are no longer two but one flesh; therefore, let no one separate what God has joined.” This is the basis for the view that marriage is an enduring and exclusive partnership, one which requires serious consideration.
We begin with who can celebrate the Rite of Marriage in the Roman Catholic Church. A basic requirement is that at least one of the parties should be a baptized Catholic. While this may seem obvious, there have sometimes been non-Catholic couples who approach the church and ask to be married there simply because they think the church is pretty! While one of the parties should be Catholic, exceptions may be made for someone who is, for example, going through the R.C.I.A. process in order to become a fully initiated Catholic.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we explore the answers to other questions about Catholic marriage.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi

Today we celebrate the Feast of The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, also called the Feast of Corpus Christi. The addition of Corpus Christi as a feast in the Christian calendar was partly due to a thirteenth-century Augustinian nun named Juliana of Liège. From her early youth, Juliana had a veneration for the Blessed Sacrament, and longed for a special feast in its honor. In 1208, she had her first vision of Christ, a vision which was repeated for the next twenty years, but she kept it a secret. When she eventually told her confessor about her visions and Christ’s request for a special feast, he told his bishop.

Juliana also approached the Archdeacon of Liège, who later became Pope Urban IV. In 1263, after the death of Juliana, Pope Urban investigated claims of a Eucharistic miracle at a little town in central Italy, in which a consecrated host began to bleed. In 1264 he issued a papal bull, or formal proclamation, in which Corpus Christi was made a feast throughout the entire Latin Rite.

As we celebrate this special feast, we should remind ourselves of the proper way to receive Communion. Internally, we should not be aware of any grave sin. Externally, we should be reverent.

We have the option to receive either on the tongue or in the hand. As the minister says “The Body of Christ,” you should bow your head slightly in reverence and respond “Amen.” If receiving in the hand, put one hand on top of the other to make a throne for the Lord. Allow the Host to be placed into the palm of your hand – do not take it from the minister’s fingers. Once the Host is on your hand, take a step to the side, and then receive Our Lord.

If you are going to receive on the tongue, your head should be tilted back slightly. Please allow the priest, deacon, or minister to place the host on your tongue and remove his fingers before you close your mouth.

If you are receiving the Precious Blood, again bow your head slightly as the minister says “The Blood of Christ” and respond “Amen.” Carefully take the chalice and sip from the Precious Blood. Then, just as carefully, give the cup back to the minister, making certain the minister has it firmly in hand before you release your grip. Remember that in the Roman Catholic Church, we do not dip the Host into the Precious Blood. This ritual, called intinction, is not done in the Latin Church.

As we celebrate this special feast, we are reminded that Jesus said, over and over, that He is the Bread of Life.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Why We Call God "Father"

On this feast of the Most Holy Trinity, as we also celebrate Father’s Day, we pay special tribute to the first person of the Trinity, God the Father.

In the creeds, we profess our faith in God as “Father almighty.” His fatherhood and His power are evident in His care for us, by adopting us as sons and daughters in Baptism, and by being rich in mercy to forgive our sins. God is almighty and all-powerful, but His power is not oppressive; it is loving, for He is our Father.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that “by calling God ‘Father,’ the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and … that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children. God's parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood, which emphasizes …the intimacy between Creator and creature. The language of faith thus draws on the human experience of parents, who are in a way the first representatives of God for man.”

But we need to keep in mind that God “transcends the human distinction between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: he is God. He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard: no one is father as God is Father.” (CCC, paragraphs 238-239)

So if God is not a man, why do we use masculine pronouns when referring to God and why do we call Him “Father”? Because Jesus, the Son-of-God-made-man, revealed Him as such, and through our Baptism, we are given the grace of an intimate relationship with God. As Paul says in his letter to the Galatians, “As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ ” (Galatians 4:6). The term “Abba” is best translated as “Daddy.” Jesus implies that a relationship with God should be like that of a child: very close, personal, and dependent.

Many people think of and define God the Father according to their experiences or memories of their earthly fathers. If there are bad memories, or no memories, it is often difficult to understand the heart of the Heavenly Father. But Scripture assures us that God is "a father to the fatherless" (Psalm 68:6), and the ideal Father. He provides, protects, and keeps His promises. If necessary, He disciplines and corrects, but then always reassures His children of His love. He never rejects or abandons them. He listens, and is gracious, merciful and forgiving. He is the perfect example of and to all fathers.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Saint Joseph, A Man of God

Many of us remember writing "J-M-J" at the top of our papers in parochial school, picturing the members of the Holy Family as we did our work. As we look to honor our fathers next Sunday on Father’s Day, we look at the man God chose as the guardian of Mary and foster father to His Only Begotten Son, Jesus. That man was Joseph, and very little is known about him.

The earliest Christian writings, which are the letters of St. Paul, make no reference to Joseph; nor does the Gospel of Mark, the oldest of the Gospels. The first appearance of Joseph is found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, both of which trace Joseph's family tree back to King David. Matthew and Luke are also the only Gospels to include the infancy narratives, the stories of Jesus’ birth, though with some differences.

In the Gospel of Luke, Joseph lives in Nazareth and travels to Bethlehem, the city of David, for the census. Subsequently, Jesus was born there.

In Matthew, there is no mention of where Joseph lived before Jesus' birth, and there is no mention of Joseph and Mary travelling to Bethlehem because of the census, though it does mention that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Following Jesus’ birth, Joseph stayed in Bethlehem for an unspecified period until forced to take refuge in Egypt when Herod ordered the execution of all male children in the village of Bethlehem. When Herod dies, Joseph brings his family back to Israel, and settles in Nazareth. After this point there is no further mention of Joseph by name, although the story of Jesus in the Temple at age twelve includes a reference to "both his parents." Christian tradition represents Mary as a widow during the adult ministry of her son.

The gospels describe Joseph as a "tekton," which is where we get the word technology. Traditionally, the word has been taken to mean "carpenter,” though the Greek term is more accurately translated as “general contractor.” Very little other information on Joseph is given in the Gospels, in which he never speaks.

Joseph is venerated as the patron saint of workers, and the Feast of St. Joseph, March 19th, is also Father's Day in some Catholic countries, including Spain, Portugal, and Italy.

In a month when many couples choose to get married, we remember that Mary and Joseph were a couple, and with a husband's love, he cherished Mary. And so we honor Saint Joseph as father, husband, and servant of God.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Sacraments & Grace

In the past couple of months, our parish has celebrated many Baptisms, Confirmations, and weddings. Weekly, we celebrate Eucharist, Reconciliation, and anointings of those who are sick or dying. We truly are a sacramental people.

Growing up, many of us learned that a sacrament is "an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace." The Catechism of the Catholic Church, published in 1994, updated that definition, saying, “The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us.” The definition definitely got a little more complicated, so let’s break it down!

Efficacious means effective or successful in producing the desired outcome. In everyday life, we see signs everywhere. However, when we approach, for example, a stop sign, there is no power in the red metal octagon that makes us put on the brakes; it is our own effort that makes us stop. Most of the time, our efforts are effective!

Sacramental signs are different in that God is the one doing the action, transmittting His unseen grace into our souls through material symbols. These objects, words, and gestures, including water, oil, and laying on of hands, are perceptible to our five senses, and through them we are given God’s life and grace.

We know that no human power could attach an inward grace to an outward sign: only God can do that, which brings us to the next part of the definition: "instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church." While Christ the one who instituted the seven sacraments, it has historically been the Church who was given the responsibility of identifying them and specifying how they are celebrated. Jesus did choose the matter and form of some of the sacraments, like Baptism and the Eucharist, which is documented in Scripture. But for other sacraments, like Confirmation, He left it to His Church, the keeper of His sacraments, to specify how.

Coming now to the final element in the definition of a sacrament, we have its essential purpose: to give us divine life or grace. Theologians speak about sacramental celebrations as “encounters with Christ.” This is grace, and it strengthens us to live as disciples of Christ. The sacraments allow us to become aware of a great gift: the creative, sustaining, loving presence of God. This is why the Church encourages us to receive the sacraments as often as we can, and why so many Catholics who leave the Faith for whatever reason often return – because this is where they feel the sacramental presence of our loving God who sustains us.