Thursday, June 28, 2012
The Catholic Church is a sacramental church. The importance of the seven sacraments is undeniable. Baptism, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders, Anointing of the Sick – each of these offers us the opportunity to encounter Christ. The sacraments are signs that God is with us, and the grace they give strengthens us to live a life of faith. While sacraments are important to our faith formation, they are not magic. Rather, they are part of an ongoing process.
When we celebrate Mass every Sunday with our parish family, develop a relationship with God through prayer, show our love for neighbor through service, and exhibit a willingness to learn about our Catholic faith, we are preparing for an encounter with Christ. Our body, our temple, is a comfortable environment for God, our invited guest. On the other hand, when we ignore Jesus’ admonition to remember Him, when we don’t pray, when we are selfish in our actions, and are unwilling to learn about our faith in order to share it with others, then we need to ask: Are we really prepared for an encounter with Christ?
School is about more than rote learning and work is about more than a paycheck. When we are in these environments, we are learning new skills, building on old skills, connecting with people, and forming relationships. The same is true for church. If we aren’t taking advantage of the opportunities for growth here, if we aren’t celebrating Mass at least weekly with our parish community, then what message are we sending? Is our faith an integral part of our lives?
Over the years, there have been changes in the terminology we use when talking about the dedicated time spent learning about our faith. Many of us attended CCD or catechism classes. Then it became Religious Education. Now, many parishes, including Risen Savior, prefer the title Faith Formation because it more accurately describes the end result: people formed in faith and living as disciples of Christ.
Sacraments are wonderful signs, but we need to live in a way that shows that our faith is important to us – even when we’re not preparing to receive a sacrament for the first time. We need to maintain a level of involvement in our parish community after and between sacramental celebrations. We need to show our children that faith is important all the time, throughout our lives, by bringing them to faith formation classes every year and encouraging them to get involved at church. And perhaps the most important action adults can take is to set an example by using their gifts and talents in service to the parish.
Friday, June 22, 2012
A number of adults in the United States are not registered to vote, and many of those who are registered choose not to vote. The reasons often cited are that it is inconvenient or that one vote doesn’t matter. This defeatist attitude leads to low voter registration and low turnout at elections. Is there any compelling reason why Catholics should vote in civil elections?
Catholic or not, it is important for American citizens to be involved in politics. In order to "secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity," as the Preamble to the Constitution says, Americans must accept their moral obligation to participate in the political life of our country. Does the Catholic Church care whether or not you vote?
Paragraph 2239 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. … Service of the common good require(s) citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community.”
One of the roles we have as citizens – one of the ways we contribute to the good of society – is by taking an active role in electing civil officials. While educating ourselves about the issues may not be exciting, we have a responsibility to do just that in order to make informed choices at the polls. As a people who have chosen to follow Christ, we have an obligation to share the Gospel, by word and deed, in all areas of our lives. This should be manifested in how we vote. But how do we determine what the real issues are?
The Catechism helps by giving general guidelines about the rights that must be ensured for everyone. These include “the freedom to establish a family, have children, and bring them up in keeping with the family's own moral and religious convictions; the protection of the stability of the marriage bond and the institution of the family; … the right to private property, to free enterprise, to obtain work and housing, and the right to emigrate; …the right to medical care, assistance for the aged, and family benefits; (and) the protection of security and health… (Paragraph 2211)”
These concerns are especially important when considering that our nation is in the midst of an economic crisis. We are blessed to have a Church that gives us principles to use as we analyze economic life in the context of our faith. The challenge is clear: Are we willing to educate ourselves on the issues? Are we willing to exercise our right to vote? And are we willing to let our faith inform our choices?
Friday, June 15, 2012
The third Sunday of June is a day set aside to honor fathers and celebrate their influence in society. What does the Catholic Church have to say about fatherhood?
It should come as no surprise that the Catholic Church considers marriage and the family to be “one of the most precious of human values,” and the foundation of society. Because of its importance, the Church has a lot to say about the responsibilities, duties, and obligations of parents. Both fathers and mothers leave strong impressions on their children that continue long after they have left home. In Familiaris Consortio, a letter written to the faithful by Pope John Paul II, the Holy Father spoke about "Men as Husbands and Fathers.”
Men as fathers begins with them being good husbands. "… A man (must) have a profound respect for the equal dignity of his wife…” The Holy Father quotes St. Ambrose, a 4th century bishop, who said, “You are not her master, but her husband; she was not given to you to be your slave, but your wife.... Reciprocate her attentiveness to you and be grateful to her for her love.” Christian men are called to cultivate a gentle and strong love “like that which Christ has for the Church."
Children are observant and so a man's attitude toward his wife will be noted and absorbed by both his sons and daughters. Daughters will grow to be women, and they need to learn that real gentlemen are respectful and protective of women. Sons will become men who need a firm, well-formed Catholic conscience to help develop and strengthen their own wills, that they may also be respectful and protective of women. Sons and daughters must see that dad loves and respects their mother for herself and as another being created in God's image.
Pope John Paul II goes on to say, “Above all where social and cultural conditions so easily encourage a father to be less concerned with his family … efforts must be made to restore the importance of the father in the family.”
A father shares with his wife the duty of training their children in the knowledge of faith and teaching them to love God. He is to be a channel of grace to his sons and daughters, and “effectively introduce the children into the living experience of Christ and the Church."
May St. Joseph and God our Father in Heaven guide all Catholic fathers today, and may they know they are treasured in their families.
Friday, June 8, 2012
In 1963, Vatican II produced The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. This document identified the Eucharist as the source and summit of Christian life, and called for “full, conscious and active participation” of the faithful. Gone were the days when people just watched the liturgy and read in their prayer books or prayed the rosary during Mass. The liturgy was to be celebrated in the language of the people and adapted to the culture. God, we were told, was present in the liturgy in several ways: in the assembled community of believers; in the Word of God proclaimed; in the priest who presided in Jesus’ place; and, in fullness, in the elements of the consecrated bread and wine. Today, we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi, the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
While some Christian denominations believe that the bread and wine are merely signs or symbols of Christ, we Catholics hold that they are actually what Jesus said they were: His Body and Blood. It is an act of faith to believe this, but, in believing it, we know that this food transforms and energizes us. But why? For what purpose? Why are we commanded to “eat His Body, and drink His Blood?” It is because we are being fed to go out into the world and do the amazing and challenging things that the Gospels inspire us to do: to continue the work of Jesus in the world, especially with the poor and vulnerable.
Liturgy and justice are intimately connected. At liturgy, we listen to the Word of God, and Christ speaks to us. We hear the homily and we are motivated to put the Gospel into action – to make justice reign on earth. We cannot be transformed through the liturgical actions of the Mass unless we are open to working for justice on earth. Justice and Eucharist go hand-in-hand.
In 2004, Pope John Paul II reminded us of this connection: If our communal sharing in the Eucharist is authentic, it will inspire us to build a more just society. “It is not by chance,” Pope John Paul says, “that the Gospel of John contains no account of the institution of the Eucharist, but instead relates the “washing of feet”: by bending down to wash the feet of his disciples, Jesus explains the meaning of the Eucharist ...”
And Pope Benedict said: "All who partake of the Eucharist must commit themselves to peacemaking in our world scarred by violence and war, and today in particular, by terrorism, economic corruption and sexual exploitation.”
As we celebrate this feast of Corpus Christi, we understand that our responsibilities as Christians go beyond this table.