Sunday, February 28, 2010

Precepts of the Catholic Church, part IV

Again this week, I’d like to continue with the series about the precepts of the Catholic Church.

The following inset quotes are from the Catechism of the Catholic Church

The third precept ("You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season") guarantees as a minimum the reception of the Lord's Body and Blood in connection with the Paschal feasts, the origin and center of the Christian liturgy.
There was a time when people, instead of going to confession and trying to change their lives would stay in the state of sin and not go to communion. There were others who were so conscience of their sinfulness that they never felt worthy to  eceive our Lord in communion. Most people have no problem with receiving communion once a year today. There is more of a tendency to go to communion while in the state of mortal sin. This, too, is a serious matter. See last week’s
2043 The fourth precept ("You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church") ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.
The rules for fasting and abstinence were in the bulletin last week and again this week. Fasting helps us learn to control our desires for a greater good.

The fifth precept ("You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church") means that the faithful are obliged to assist with the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability.
This precept ties in greatly with the whole idea of almsgiving. While the requirement is to give to our ability, we need to be careful that we don’t under estimate our ability. Often times we have the ability to support the church to a greater degree, but we tend to keep the money for activities that we enjoy. When we look at where our money goes, it gives us a sense about our priorities.

The sixth precept that is often added is to follow the laws of the Church in regards to marriage.
This precept would dictate that we would be married in the Church. If there are impediments to our marriage, we would take care of those as quickly as possible so as to allow us to be married in the Church. If there are issues that stand in the way of meeting this precept, I encourage you to come in and talk with me.

My goal by posting these precepts and comments is to help all of those in the parish reflect a little bit upon what we should be doing as we live out our faith. In addition to these basic precepts, we also need to be looking at the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

Care and Share

Next weekend, our diocese kicks off it annual appeal (Care & Share). It is a great opportunity for us to connect with the larger church and support the needs of our diocese as well as the needs of the church throughout the world. Care & Share was started in 1969 as a way to eliminate the continual fundraising within the diocese through various second collections. This annual appeal was meant to collect all of the money at once to support the diocese and all of the various annual collections that take place. Only once in it's history has this goal been truly achieved. Over time, four of our annual collections have been added back to the schedule within the diocese. We've also had mandated goals assessed to the parishes in order to achieve our ultimate goal.

Each of us has an obligation to support the Church (5th precept). As a parish, we support the diocese each year through our Current Operating Fund Assessment, and as individuals, we support the diocese through Care & Share.  I want to encourage all within the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings to truly pray about their contribution. By making a monthly pledge, or by having an electronic withdrawal from you checking account, a larger donation is often possible. When the money goes out over time it does not have such an impact on personal budgets.

Please also, pray for the success of the annual Care & Share appeal

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Former Olympic speed skater now Franciscan sister

This is another great story from the Catholic News Agency

A former U.S. Olympic speed skater is now a Franciscan sister and says she has “no regrets” about her decision to commit to a life of service to God and the poor.

Kirstin Holum at the age of 17 placed sixth in the 3,000 meters speed skating event at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. Observers predicted a great future for Holum, whose mother was a 1972 gold medalist in speed skating.

But despite loving the sport, she told Yahoo Sports, “I had this incredibly strong calling that it was time to move on and take a different path in life.”

She decided on her calling while on pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal.

Holum is now known as Sister Catherine and is a member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, whose mission is to work with the poor and the homeless and to evangelize.

“It is funny now to think of how different my life is now,” she told Yahoo Sports. “I had the wonderful privilege of being able to compete as an Olympian, and now I am blessed to able to serve God and help those less fortunate.”

Be sure to read the complete story.

Friday, February 12, 2010

NARAL report suggests Pro-Life are making a difference

This is from the Catholic News Agency.

Washington D.C., Feb 12, 2010 / 08:07 pm (CNA).- A pro-abortion group’s 2009 report giving a “D” grade to the United States on abortion suggests pro-life progress at the state level. The report’s description of a murdered late-term abortionist as a hero may even be a sign of desperation, pro-life leaders say.

NARAL Pro-Choice America’s report, “Who Decides: The Status of Women's Reproductive Rights in the United States,” laments the decreasing number of abortion providers in the country. It claims various states enacted 29 pro-life laws but only passed 21 “pro-choice” bills.

According to the report’s analysis of governors and state legislators, states are pro-life by a 2 to 1 margin.

Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, told that the report shows the failure of efforts to make abortion acceptable.

"They can't take the stigma out of abortion, even if the legality of it is protected," Fr. Pavone commented. "As a result, they face a shortage of practitioners."

Check out the whole story here

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Precepts of the Catholic Church, part III

Again this week, I’d like to continue with the series about the precepts of the Catholic Church.

The following inset quote is from the Catechism of the Catholic Church

The second precept ("You shall confess your sins at least once a year") ensures preparation for the Eucharist by the reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, which continues Baptism's work of conversion and forgiveness.

I think for many of us it is too easy to think of our selves as not having any serious sin to confess. In our society, we’ve gotten to the point where many of us think like the title of an old book, “I’m OK, You’re OK”. It is easy to not realize the harm done by some of our sinful behavior.

When we kill someone, or steal something, it is usually pretty easy to know who has been hurt by our actions. What about when we miss Mass on Sunday, or engage in consensual, but immoral, sexual activity? Is someone hurt by these actions? YES. First of all, we’ve hurt God by turning our back on Him whom we should love above all things. We’ve put some pleasure in place of honoring God and following the directions he has given us by which we are to live. When we miss Mass, it hurts the rest of the gathered assembly. Each of us has a part to add to the celebration, even if it is just our presence. Many times when we engage in immoral sexual activities, we develop a sense of pride, or an attitude that we know better than the Church. Instead of trying to struggle with understanding what the Church, instituted by Christ, is teaching on the matter, we choose to do our own thing.

Some may argue that the Second Vatican Council talked about following our conscience. The document in question was addressing the rights of people to follow their faith without government intimidation. For example, if you are Catholic living in a Muslim country, you should have the right to practice your Catholic faith. It has nothing to do with being able to act in an immoral way just because in your conscience you think that it is ok.

The Church also speaks of a rightly formed conscience. She expects her followers to truly study the teachings of the church from the standpoint of the Magisterium. Often times our consciences seem to be formed by those who disagree with the official teaching of the church. People like Fr. Richard McBrien, and publications like the National Catholic Reporter, become our source because we like what they say. When they disagree with the Magisterium, and imply that our immoral acts are not sins, we see that as an excuse to continue living life as we want, not in conformity with the teachings of Christ as passed through his bride, the Church.

It is also easy, when we are not in the state of grace, to let some of the effects of sin affect our lives. It is much easier sometimes rather than go to confession, to hold on to anger, and let it be expressed at inopportune times. Our guilt/anger/resent, might make itself evident when speaking with our spouse or children.

Thus we can see the need to confess our sins at least once a year. It is preferable to take advantage of the sacrament even more frequently. We may not need to go to confession every week, as was the practice years ago, but we do need to go to confession on a regular basis. Monthly reception of the sacrament of reconciliation would be most appropriate.

Peace and prayers until next week

Fr. Leo

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Thoughts While Traveling

One of the great things I get to do as vocation director is travel around to check out various seminaries, meet with our current seminarians, and chat with potential seminarians.

I'm typing this while in the middle of one such adventure. One of the remarkable things I've seen during this trip is the excitement that many of our young peple have for the faith. While one would expect that from the seminarians, I see it in the lives of many of our young people.

I wonder sometimes where our excitement is for our faith. The Second Vatican Council reminds us that the laity are called to be a leaven in the world. The laity are called to take Christ to their work places, to their schools, to their places of recreation. The laity are called to make sure Christ is truly present in their homes.

I think so many times, many members of the laity are confused about the roles they are called to in the Church. Many times priests have helped to blur those roles. The true role of the laity is not to take the place of the priest in the liturgical life of the Church, but to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

Each of us has to ask ourselves what we are doing to preach the Gospel. Are we the voice of the unborn crying out for justice? Are we the helping hand for the widow or orphan trying to make it through life? Are we the support that is needed by one trying to overcome addiction? Do our friends at work or school know that we are Catholic?

These are the signs the laity is a leaven in the world. The young people I've been around the past week are trying to make a difference in the world. What are you doing?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Raise your hand

Precepts of the Catholic Church, part II

To follow up on my comments on the precepts of the Catholic Church.

The following is from the Catechism of the Catholic Church

2042 The first precept ("You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor") requires the faithful to sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord as well as the principal liturgical feasts honoring the mysteries of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints; in the first place, by participating in the Eucharistic celebration, in which the Christian community is gathered, and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days.

For most of those who are reading the bulletin, the importance of Sunday Mass attendance is probably already evident.

One thing to keep in mind is that the obligation is to attend Mass. After 9/11 I was mobilized and was away from my parishes for 11 months. During part of that time, priests from the neighboring parishes were helping provide Mass on Sunday. Each of the three communities had Mass at 4:30 in the afternoon. Some in one of the parishes asked if they could have word and communion at 9 am instead of Mass at 4:30. It is a clear sign that for some, the importance of Sunday Mass has been lost.

I do not take lightly my responsibility of trying to provide Mass on Sundays and Holy Days. Mass can not always be offered at the most convenient time for everyone, but we should make the effort to work our schedule around Mass instead of trying to work Mass into our schedule. I have heard of cases where some priests have down played the importance of Holy Day Masses by arbitrarily moving them to another day during the week. This is a disservice to all involved. It is possible for many Holy Days to have a vigil Mass and I will try to make that available when the opportunity presents itself. There are a few exceptions, such as those that fall on a Monday.

That being said, I was asked about Ash Wednesday Mass in Geraldine. I don’t know where the idea originated, but there is no vigil Mass for Ash Wednesday. I will be in Geraldine to say Mass on Tuesday evening like I normally am when I’m not traveling, and I’ll be back to say Mass on Ash Wednesday in the morning. Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation.

I’d like to go back to the obligation of attending Mass on Sundays. I do realize that at times people are required to work on Sunday, and it may interfere with Mass attendance. When there is a legitimate reason for missing Mass, you could consider attending Mass some other day during the week. When I am here, we generally have Mass every day. There are some days when the time gets changed because I have a conflict, or we are at the Bluffs or hospital, but there are opportunities most weeks to attend a weekday Mass. It is also important to remember that if you miss Mass intentionally, i.e., you wanted to sleep in though you were not sick, you went hunting, it did not work into your schedule, it is a mortal sin. You should refrain from communion until you have the chance to go to confession. It is permissible to miss Mass if you are truly sick (hangovers don’t count since you knew you’d have Mass the next day), you have to work (if it takes all day to feed the livestock in the winter I understand), or you are impeded by such things as snow drifts.

The obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days is not to be taken lightly. As a leaven in the world, it is the responsibility of the laity to live out the precepts of the Church, and to challenge others to do likewise.

Peace and prayers until next week

Fr. Leo