A Missionary Church

“What would you change about the Church?”

I got asked that question a few days ago. My immediate reaction was something like this:

Of course, what I mean by that is that I wouldn’t change any of the doctrine or big T traditions of the Church. The Church is Jesus’, it isn’t mine to change. Jesus gave us the Church so that we can be converted, not so that we can convert it.

But besides the essentials that aren’t changeable, there is at least one thing that I’d change about many Catholic churches in the west: I’d make the churches more mission oriented and evangelistic. At my home parish, I don’t know if I ever see anyone bringing anyone new to church. It’s more of a family thing, where you only go to mass if your family has always went. In many ways, it strikes me as more of an exclusive club than a family of God. The Church is not supposed to be exclusive at all, but rather reach out to even the poorest and and the most helpless. Of course the Catholic Church is going to lose some members to Protestant churches in the west if this continues to happen. The truth is just not enough for people, they are looking for a relationship with God as well! They need to experience God! And despite having all of this on Protestant churches (MASS, apostolic succession, adoration, confession, charismatic groups, charities, bible studies, praise and worship, prayer groups), cradle Catholics often don’t even know the significance or don’t take advantage of it.

I recently went through my parish directory, and since we’ve been in the same parish all my life, I knew a lot of the names. Unfortunately, I didn’t know the names from parish activities. I knew the names from school, sports, and other community activities. That’s a major problem: the Church should be bringing people together, not isolating them! Many of those people do not go to Sunday mass any more, and I bet that a significant amount of them would return if only there was someone who would personally invite them back.

I don’t want to dis my home parish, they’re fully in union with the Pope and at masses I get to receive our Lord in the Eucharist and hear His Word in the Scriptures. I received all of my sacraments there and I love it. There are a ton of really fantastic people there. But I want to challenge my parish and all other parishes in the west (Europe and the Americas) to do more to embrace the Gospel. We must fully embrace Jesus and the Gospel message in our lives, and then from there we need to share it with as many people as we can! I’d love to see many small groups in my parish where the Sunday only parishioners can be individually shown the Gospel by others who know it better (starting with the priests!) so that they can do the same for others. I’d love to see this not only for adults but for the youth, so that they don’t scamper as far away from the church as possible after they are confirmed. I’d love for the parishioners to get to know each other outside of just saying “peace be with you” at mass. Make sure that the children see the priests and any other religious more often than just Sunday mornings, so they can see that they are real people too.

We obviously need a renewal in the everyday churches across the west. I know that it can be done: the student parish at the University of Illinois that I attended was solid: there were so many different ministries and retreats where students would interact with other students, staff, religious sisters, and priests in order to embrace the faith not just for Sundays but for a lifetime. Sure, there are improvements necessary everywhere, but this is a wonderful example of how it can be done. I can’t wait to try and share my experience at my new campus as a FOCUS missionary next year, and reach out to those who otherwise would be isolated from Jesus and never understand the Gospel.

Pope Francis has talked about this many times already in his pontificate, and one of his most famous quotes so far was:

“When the Church does not come out of itself to evangelize, it becomes self-referential and then gets sick.” – Pope Francis

He said this to show that simply going with the flow isn’t enough for us as Christians. As Christians we must constantly strive to put Jesus in the center of our lives. He emphasized that point in a tweet:

“We cannot be part-time Christians! We should seek to live our faith at every moment of every day.” – Pope Francis

A great follow-up on this post for anyone interested is the following book: Pope John Paul II and the New Evangelization by Ralph Martin and Peter Williamson – Amazon

The Introductory Rites of Mass

vigilmasslife

This week for bible study we began going over the Mass.

The sign of the cross.

This is something that we try to hide or do really quick sometimes. It is actually a prayer in and of itself. We invoke God’s presence and invite Him to bless us. Tertulian (160-225AD): In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting on our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupies us, we mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross.

It can also be used to help souls fight temptation and protect them from evil. St. John Crysostom (347-407AD) : Never leave your house without making the sign of the cross. It will be to you a staff, a weapon, an impregnable fortress. Neither man nor demon will dare to attack  you, seeing you covered with such powerful armor. Let this sign teach you that you are a soldier, ready to combat against demons, and ready to fight for the crown of justice. Are you ignorant of what the cross has done? It has vanquished death, destroyed sin, emptied hell, dethroned Satan, and restored the universe. Would you then doubt its power?”

St. Cyril of Jerusalem echoed these words himself.

Biblical roots of the sign of the cross:
Check out the book of the prophet Ezekiel. In his vision in Ezekiel 8 (p.879), he saw many leaders of the Jews committing idolatry. But not everyone was committing idolatry in his vision: the righteous ones received a mark that looked like an X or cross on their foreheads, it was to set them apart from the rest of the corrupt culture and be a sign of divine protection, as we see in Ezekiel 9:4-6 (p.880). Similarity with the Passover? Also Rev 7:3 (saints in heaven have a seal on their foreheads) and 9:4 (the seal separates the righteous from unrighteous).

The early Christians saw the mark on the foreheads as a prefiguring of the sign of the cross.

By crossing ourselves, we are expressing our desire to be set apart from the corruption of this world. We are also invoking God’s protection in our lives.

In the sign of the cross, we are also calling upon God’s name. Calling upon God’s name means to invoke His presence and power. Check out Psalm 105:1 for example.

It also reminds us of the doctrine of the trinity. So let’s not be ashamed of the sign of the cross or to do it hurriedly, but do it with reverence.

The Lord be with you.

It’s more significant than “good morning.”

Conveys the reality: “When two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst.” -Matthew 18:20.

The priest is praying that the divine life that we received in baptism continues to grow in us.

God promises to be with us in many parts of salvation history, like with Moses in Exodus 3:12 and with the Blessed Virgin Mary in Luke 1:28. They received this assurance at significant points in their lives. They were called to do great things, and God didn’t just give them the talents to do it, He merely assured them of His presence, which is all that they need. They would fulfill their missions not because of their own talent but because of  God’s help.

Hearing this should remind us of our high calling, and inspire us with the reminder of God’s desire to be with us and help us on our journey.

We respond: “And with your spirit.”

This is very similar to Galatians 6:18. It’s not just a polite response. It is acknowledging the Holy Spirit’s unique activity through the priest in the liturgy by virtue of his ordination. So we are addressing the spirit of the priest- the deepest part of him- and asking him to be our priest.

Sometimes the Priest gives the apostolic blessing that St. Paul loved to give in his letters: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Check out Romans 1:7 for example.

Penitential Rite:

When God immediately appeared to people, they often threw themselves down on the ground and covered their faces in acknowledging their unworthiness. But when He gave them warning, the people made sure to prepare themselves beforehand. In Exodus 19:9-19, we see that Israel, with 3 days warning, consecrated themselves to the Lord and washed their clothing.

We also need to prepare for the coming of God during mass. We not only see God but receive Him sacramentally, so it’s an even bigger deal for us.

So it’s the perfect time for us to confess our sinfulness and ask for God’s mercy. We also have regular confession, which is required at the very least once a year, so that we are worthy to receive the Eucharist. Confessing ones sins was done in groups (Nehemiah 9:2, p.421) or privately in the Old Testament (Psalm 32:5). This continued after Jesus. Of course, Jesus instituted the formal sacrament of confession, which we can cover in more detail some other time, but John wrote in his first letter, 1 John 1:9. St. Paul expressed the importance of the confession of sins before partaking of the Eucharist in 1 Cor 11:27-28. The Didache, 14, said, “Assemble on the Lord’s Day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one.” We confess our sins not only to God but to each other, as we see in James 5:16. Our sins not only affect our relationship with God, but our relationships with each other. How have you guys noticed the affects of our sin in these ways?

In this prayer note how there are four areas to examine: our thoughts, our words, our actions, and the actions that we should have done. It’s more than just avoiding doing bad things, we have to also strive to do all we can for others. The story of the rich young man highlights this reality, in Matthew 19.

Why do we repeat and strike our heart? It is an opportunity to show our true sorrow.

*We didn’t even get to the Kyrie, Gloria, or Opening Prayer. This might take a while..

Why Priesthood? Interview a Seminarian: John

Today is the last day of the “Interview a Seminarian” series!

Today we get to hear from John. One of the main points of emphasis with John was how he is so excited to potentially serve his parish, and all of the people of the Church. He is so excited to be there for others and follow Jesus’ example of laying down His life for His people.

What’s it like?

Yo, Chris, what’s it like being Catholic?

Absolutely fantastic.

Too often we focus on the “you can’t do this, you have to do this” parts of the faith, and that’s what I’m trying to explain here. But let’s take a deep breath and take a look and see how amazing the Catholic faith is. Here’s a quite blunt summary:

God loves us.
Jesus died for us.
God desires that we are with Him in paradise.
God will forgive us of our sins if we come to Him contrite.
We can confess our sins and be forgiven according to His command.
We can receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist every day.
We can adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament.
God allows us to be in His presence and even to receive Him.
God cares for each and every one of us, enough so He would have died just for one of us.
God instituted this universal Church to unite the entire world.
Catholics on the other side of the world believe the same exact thing.
We are united with the same Jesus in the Eucharist.
We are also united through time in Jesus in the Eucharist.
We are all one body as we are united in Jesus.
Jesus founded our Church.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called Children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you because of me.
There is always hope in God.
We have the strength for everything through Him who empowers us.
Who can stand against us, if God is with us?
We have the opportunity to serve Christ in everyone that we see.
We were created in the image and likeness of God.
We all have an inherent dignity as human beings, from conception to natural death.
We all have priestly, prophetic, and kingly roles.
We are called to serve all those in need.
We are called to feed the hungry.
We are called to teach the ignorant.
We are the world’s largest charitable organization.
We have educated the world for years and years.
We founded the first colleges.
We started the first hospitals.
All persons ought to be treated with respect and love.
We don’t just coexist with others, we love others, unconditionally.
Even the most hardened sinners have hope in Christ.
Both men and women have unique and important roles to fill.
Your worth is not determined by your “usefulness.”
There is hope even in the greatest sorrow and despair.
We are God’s people, and He is our God.
The Father will leave the 99 sheep in search of the lost one.
The Father forgives not seven times but seventy seven times.
God desires our participation in His plan of salvation.
Jesus gave us Mary as our mother.
The Saints are praying for us all.
The Lord is our joy.
We are happy who take refuge in the God.
The Lord hears when we call out.
The Lord is at our side, His rod and staff give us courage.
Only goodness and love will pursue us all the days of our lives.
We will dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.

I’m Catholic and I’m proud. May God bless His Church forever and ever.

Stand Up For Religious Freedom!

Today I attended the Stand Up For Religious Freedom Rally in Chicago. What a fantastic experience! There was a good crowd in Daley Plaza, with a healthy dose of babies, priests, and other smiling faces. I had a lot of fun playing reporter: taking pictures and video and putting everything interesting up on my twitter feed. We were there to protest the HHS Mandate and rally for our right of religious freedom, which the mandate will negate. This really isn’t about abortion, contraception, or anything like that, this is about our fundamental conscience rights and freedom of religion. Listen to what DEMOCRATIC Representative Dan Lipinski said at the rally:

I found it especially funny that the pro life group that showed up had something like a pirate ship that a kid was riding on! Check out my pics below!

What a creative pirate ship!

Religious Freedom, Baby!

The inspiring scene on the Daley Plaza

“Let the church be the church, and the government be the government!”

Fatherhood

In honor of the Solemnity of St. Joseph, it’s a fantastic day for another post on manhood, specifically fatherhood!

So I’d like to start by stating that many of the issues that we like to talk about nowadays are “women’s issues.” But as much as they might be seen as “woman’s issues,” many of these issues are created by the failures of men and fathers.

For example, the problem of abortion is created by a lack of maturity by men. The choice of having sexual relations with a woman is a major choice that you don’t just do for fun. No, a man should recognize that this action naturally could lead to pregnancy, and with that a greater call to self sacrifice for the mother of his child and his child.

The problem of prostitution and pornography is also created by a lack of self control by men. These “industries” hurt both women and men by treating women as objects of pleasure instead of dignified human beings and trapping men in addictions that are very hard to break. This openness that our society has to these industries also makes it hard for men to remember to treat all women with respect and dignity.

The problem of children growing up fatherless is quite obviously failure on the part of men. What a horribly selfish crime it is that a man would help bring a child into the world, in what is perhaps the most intimate act on earth, only to never be a part of raising and caring his child?

Many children may have fathers but they do not spend enough time with them. I found a fantastic study from the US Department of Health and Human Services on the impact of fathers on children here, that I will be referencing for the rest of this post. According to the study, the way that children see their father treat their mother goes a long way in how they learn to treat others themselves. Sons learn from the good example of their fathers to treat women with respect and dignity at all times, and daughters learn from their fathers’ example how they should be treated by men as they grow up. The study even shows how fathers who do not control their anger or treat their wives with respect often father children who are anxious, withdrawn, or anti-social. On the academic side, the study shows that children whose biological fathers are highly involved in their lives have higher IQ scores and get better grades. The study even notes how it is important for children to be raised not just in a household of cohabitating parents but in a household of married parents. The sad truth is that if the parents are not married yet even though they are living together, it is much less likely that they will ever get married. And if they don’t get married, it is much less likely that they will stay together. Men need to man up and commit, for the sake of their wives and children! The last issue that the study addresses is how children with an involved father are more emotionally and socially secure and outgoing, especially as youths. These children are less likely to suffer from depression or get involved with crime and drugs.

All Christians are called to priestly, prophetic, and kingly roles. As men, we are specifically called to provide for our families and those in need, to teach and instruct others, and to lead in what we say and do. We must follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, thinking of others first and ourselves last. It is very important in our modern age, where we see a void of strong and selfless men in society, that we encourage each other and challenge each other to man up and start living for others instead of ourselves. By doing this, we will be addressing many of the current hot topic issues of our society right at the source.

St. Joseph, pray for us, that we may be men of faith, love, and courage, caring for all of the women, children, and needy in our lives!