Sunday, December 11, 2011

Homily for 3rd Sunday of Advent B

Today we celebrate Gaudete Sunday. It is so called because of the Introit assigned to our Mass on this Third Sunday of Advent. The first word of the introit in Latin is Gaudete, which in English is Rejoice!

We have much reason for rejoicing, for our God is coming. We heard hints of that in today’s Gospel passage. One greater than John the Baptist is coming after him. How does one explain the excitement that this bold statement should invoke in the hearts of Christians? Not only did Jesus take on flesh and walk in the land of Galilee, but he continues to be here with us today. Christ is here because two or more are gathered in his name. Christ is here because he is present in the Word that is proclaimed. Christ is here in the person of the priest. Christ is here in a most special way in the Eucharist. Christ is here. There is truly reason for us to rejoice.

Let’s look back at the beginning of today’s Gospel:

A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.

John came to testify to the light. He’s not talking about the light coming from the fixtures overhead. He’s not talking about the light from the sun or the reflected light of the moon. He’s not even talking about the light from the candles we have burning near the altar. John came to testify to Christ who would be the light of truth in the world.

One can often ask how can we see that light? It is not like the light we see from the sun or the many other sources I’ve mentioned, or we’ve experienced. It is an internal glow that makes itself manifest in the way that we share Christ though our lives. That light is the love between us and our lover, between Christ the bridegroom and his bride the Church.

In the first reading from Isaiah, we hear the prophet proclaiming:

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.

As that light of truth burns in our hearts, that spirit of God comes upon each of us. We are disciples of Christ. Disciples means those who are sent. We can go out and take care of the needs of others because we know Christ in our hearts and he gives us the courage to make an impact on those around us.

How does one nurture the light of truth in one’s heart? The first is to spend time with that Truth. I mentioned earlier about Christ’s presence here with us at Mass today. When we spend time in the scriptures, not only at Mass, but at other times of the day or week, we grow in our understanding of the light sent into the world. If we spend time together, focused on prayer, we are opening the door for Christ to speak to us. When we celebrate the sacraments regularly, we give energy to the light of truth and faith that is burning within us. When we receive Christ in Holy Communion, and when we spend time praying before him in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, we fall more completely in love with the one who is that light in the world.

On this coming Tuesday, we celebrate the feast of St. Lucy, martyr and virgin. There are many legends surrounding this saint whose name means “light”. Stories recount how she had become a Christian and had a deep love for the Lord. Her mother had made arrangements for Lucy to marry a pagan. Lucy, having made a vow of virginity, and dedicating herself to God, was able to convince her mother to give the dowery to the poor. It is said that her betrothed found this out and was told by a friend that Lucy had found a nobler Bridegroom. Her betrothed then had her handed over to the governor as a Christian. As such, as one of the stories reports, part of the torture she endured prior to her death was to have her eyes poked out. According to the legend, Lucy’s eyesight was restored by God. One thing we can be sure of, as Lucy faced torture and execution for being a Christian, the true light of her life, Christ, gave her courage and strength.

As the Church, we look to our Bridegroom to bring his light into our midst. One could ask, do we have reason to rejoice as we heard in the introit? Indeed, we do. Christ is coming. Our bridegroom is soon to return and claim his bride and take her to the place he has prepared for her.

As we look to the week ahead, perhaps we could call upon the intercession of St. Lucy to help us “see” the light of Christ in our selves and to help us share that light through our lives with others.

St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr, Patron of the blind, pray for us.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Homily for 1st Sunday of Advent 2011

Last night, as we were getting ready for the Mass at Malmstom, someone commented, “Wow, we’re changing everything.” I think this was the first time this person had actually helped prepare for Advent. Just as we had done earlier in the week here, the Music Issues had been changed out. The Sunday Lectionary was changed from Year A to Year B. The Weekday Lectionary was changed from Year I to Year II. And, of course, the Sacramentary was replaced with the Roman Missal. I guess it did seem like everything had been changed and he wasn’t talking about the text from the new translation. Those involved regularly in Church life who understand the ebb and flow of the liturgical year know that all of these changes take place at the beginning of the liturgical year. Even with the new translation this year, we are able to sort of sit back, because we know when to expect the change and are ready for it. I would hope it hasn’t caught any of us off guard.

But, what did we hear at the beginning today’s Gospel? “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come’”. And at the end we heard simply the word “Watch!” We do not know when the Lord is going to return. For all that we know it could be before we get home this afternoon, or it could be after the youngest in our group has lived to a ripe old age. Even in our own life, things do not always happen in the schedule we expect. As many of you know, I went back to Garfield County the past few days in hopes of filling my “B tag” for an elk. The “B tag” was a second tag for an antlerless elk in that region. Yesterday, as I was dropping back down into Fort Benton, I gave Helen (my 73-year-old secretary) a quick call. Her first question after she knew it was me on the other end was, “And, where are you?” I told her I was dropping into Fort Benton and she quickly told me, I haven’t been by the house yet with today’s mail. I told her not to worry about it. In our everyday life, we experience the unexpected arrival of people. We think we’ve got everything figured out, but soon realize we do not. We are always called to prepare ourselves, especially for the return of Christ. As I’ve mentioned before, this first part of Advent is not so much preparing for the Christ child’s arrival at Christmas, but the King’s return.

I’d like us to listen again to the Collect from today’s Mass. (For those who are not sure what the Collect is, it is the prayer said by the priest to collect the prayers of all of those gathered at the beginning of Mass. When the priest says, “Let us pray,” we all offer our prayers silently. Then the priest says a prayer to collect all of those prayers in to one prayer.)

Here again is that Collect: “Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming, so that, gathered at his right hand, they may be worthy to possess the heavenly Kingdom.” With this new translation, we hear more about asking God for his assistance in doing what we ought. “Grant your faithful, . . . the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ.” There is a sense that the being watchful requires more action on our part than simply sitting at the gate waiting for the Master’s return. There should be a sense of expectation and joy as we watch for the Lord to return. Our excitement should be much like that of the father of the prodigal son. When he recognized his son in the distance, he raced out to meet him. In our watchfulness, when we see the Lord coming, we should run forth to meet [the Father’s] Christ.

The Collect reminds us that we are not simply to run forth, but to do so with righteous deeds so that we may be gathered at his right hand. This harkens back to last week’s gospel passage about the last judgement and the separation of the sheep from the goats. Christ separates in reality those who are doing good for others vs those who ignored others. Our interior response to the Gospel, reflected in today’s Collect, is the realization that others are made in the image and likeness of God. We need to see our outreach to them as a reflection of the love we have for God. Our exterior response is to then go out, changing the world and showing them the love of Christ. It is good to reflect upon the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. I'm not going to go into detail, but will present them for those who have forgotten what they are.

The corporal works of mercy are: To feed the hungry; To give drink to the thirsty; To clothe the naked; To harbour the harbourless; To visit the sick; To ransom the captive; To bury the dead.

What about the spiritual works of mercy? To instruct the ignorant; To counsel the doubtful; To admonish sinners; To bear wrongs patiently; To forgive offences willingly; To comfort the afflicted; To pray for the living and the dead.

Again, let us hear the end of today’s gospel, “May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’” Let us not only watch, but let us have the resolve to run forth with righteous deeds so that we may be gathered at the right hand of the Christ.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Great to be a Priest

"Father, thank you so much. I feel wonderful! I fell so clean!"

I was sitting in the confessional and had just finished hearing the Confession of a young college student. Several years had passed since her last Confession and she had fallen in many of the ways that are all too common in adolescence and young adulthood. With tears in her eyes, she said to me, "I am sick and tired of sin. I am not happy and I want Jesus back in my life." Afterward, she clearly had experienced the grace and mercy of Jesus in the sacrament of Confession. She said she felt wonderful and clean. I replied, "You're welcome. But this is just what priests do." And then I added, rather piously, "Jesus is the one who died on the cross for us so that our sins can be forgiven. He is the one we should thank." The young girl looked at me thoughtfully and said, "Father, I know that is true. And I love Jesus. But right now, I can't see him. I can just see you."

As she turned to walk out, she stopped and looked back again. "Father, if this is just what priests do, it must be awesome to be a priest."

That story was taken from the beginning of the first chapter of a book entitled, "To Save A Thousand Souls" by Father Brett A. Brannen.

How truly awesome it is to be called to serve the Church as a priest. What a great experience it is to interact in the lives of so many people at the times they need it the most. I think sometimes we fail to pass on the reality of the awesomeness of being a priest or a religious in the Church today. Many of our young people have not heard the stories about the role priests or sisters have played in our lives. Please pass on the stories to our youth about the religious or priests who have impacted your lives. It may be an inspiration to them. I would also appreciate hearing some of your stories about these priests, brothers, or sisters. I'd like to find a way to share some of these stories, perhaps even here on my blog, or in the diocesan newspaper, the Harvest. You can e-mail them to me at, or send them to me at the chancery, Father Leo McDowell, Vocations Office, PO BOX 1399, Great Falls, MT 59403. Don't forget to pray for vocations.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

What should our children be learning in Religious Education classes?

I developed the following about a dozen years ago in response to the question of what our children should be learning each year. The following are my thoughts and I am open to suggestions for modification.


What should our youth know when?

Here are some thoughts about what our Catholic children should know as they develop in our faith. These ideas cover a holistic approach to formation. It includes elements of prayer, doctrine and morals.

a. Be able to pray Prayer to the Guardian Angel, Sign of the Cross
b. Know that God loves them

1st Grade
a. Be able to pray above prayers plus Hail Mary, Our Father, Glory Be
b. Know God loves them

2nd Grade
a. Be able to follow the missalette through Mass
b. Understand God’s forgiveness and our need for reconciliation
c. Be ready to receive the sacrament of Penance
d. Know the above prayers plus the Act of Contrition, and meal prayers
e. Know that the bread and wine at Mass become Jesus
f. Have a concept of the role of the Holy Spirit in the Godhead
g. Have a sense of spontaneous prayer
h. Have an idea of what grace is
i. Be prepared to complete the sacraments of initiation

3rd Grade
a. Know the difference between Old and New Testaments
b. Be familiar with the 10 commandments – Know what’s right and wrong
c. Be able to list the 7 capital sins: Pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony and sloth
d. Apostle’s Creed
e. Know what a saint is
f. Know who their patron saint is
g. Have an understanding of who Mary is and her relationship to our faith and prayer life
h. Know the parts of the Mass
i. Be able to genuflect properly and know why we genuflect – same with other liturgical gestures

4th Grade
a. Know how to pray the Rosary and all associate prayers
1. Apostle’s Creed
2. Our Father
3. Hail Mary
4. Glory Be
5. Hail, Holy Queen
b. Know the difference between and Epistle and a Gospel
c. Know what the Stations of the Cross are about
d. Have spent more time recognizing what sin is in their lives and the need for reconciliation with God and one another
e. Understand how to make an examination of conscience before going to bed each night
f. Understand the need to support the church through time, talent and treasure
g. Be able to identify the seven sacraments

5th Grade
a. Know the difference in the Old Testament between the writings of the prophets, the law, and history (Will not necessarily be able to associate a particular book with a particular style)
b. Be able to put the given parts of the Mass in proper order on a time-line, i.e., Lord’s Prayer, Gospel, Homily and the penitential rite.
c. Know the seven sacraments more in depth and when they may be or should be received
1. What are the sacraments of initiation, commitment and healing?
2. When would one request one of the sacraments of healing?
d. What is a martyr? Name one
e. What is a Church Father? Name one
f. Have a deeper understanding of the Eucharist. Why are we required to fast for an hour before communion? Why shouldn’t we be chewing gum?

6th Grade
a. Understand the similarities in the obligations between the sacraments of commitment, i.e., matrimony and holy orders
b. Know what a vocation is, start talking about vocations to married life, single life, priesthood and religious life
c. Understand the difference and relationship between a sister, brother priest, monk
d. Be able to identify at least 10 saints and tell what they did – this should include the patron of the parish

Junior High
a. Be able to explain the hierarchy of the Church
1. What is the relationship between a priest, bishop, archbishop and the pope
2. What is a cardinal
b. Be able to explain the liturgical year and seasons
c. Be able to explain how Oral Tradition supports the Written Tradition handed down in the Scriptures.
d. What are the cardinal and theological virtues?
e. Be able to name and list in order all of the major elements of the Mass
f. Have a sense of wonder before our God made flesh – have reverently attended Exposition and Benediction with an understanding of Christ’s sacrifice and presence. There should also be an understanding of what is taking place

High School
a. Be able to discuss why the Church requires us to be at Mass on Sunday
b. Still be able to recite the prayers learned as a youngster
c. Have reviewed and still be able to understand the items learned through Jr. High
d. Have an understanding of the church’s teachings on sexuality. Some of this may be covered in Jr. High
1. What is chastity?
2. What is abstinence?
3. What is the church’s teaching on birth control? How did it develop? What are the arguments used to explain the importance of this teaching?
e. Have an understanding of the differences between spirituality and religious beliefs
f. Know the proper liturgical names of for the things found in the Church
g. Be living out the baptismal commitment of service to Christ and one another through the Church

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

40 Days for Life

This Lent, I took part in the 40 Days for Life campaign in Great Falls. While we were in front of the Planned Parenthood center, we had a variety of responses. We had people honk their horns and show us a thumbs-up. We had others raise a different digit on their hands. Some people drove by and hollered, "Good job!!!" Others shouted, "Get a job!!!" By far the positive responses were much more prevalent than the negative. I did have a car with two young girls create a bit of a laugh. The window on the passenger side was rolled down and the driver attempted to throw a paper dish of ice cream at those of us on the side walk. It hit the top of the window and spilled on the street.

As we read the Lord's Passion on Passion Sunday, the idea of being spat upon and ridiculed took on a different meaning this year. The Lord tells us that we need to take up our cross and follow him. Sometimes when we take a stand for the truth of innocent life, it does become a cross. The truth sometimes puts us at odds with society, our neighbors, our friends and sometimes even our families. We need to take seriously the challenge to, "Be not afraid" when it comes to promoting life from its very beginning.

To wrap up the 40 Days for Life in Great Falls we had a short walk for life from the Holiday Village to the Big Flag Overlook Park. The 70 or so people that took part in the walk were a witness to the truth. We had participants from 2 years of age through their 80's. The example of these people and families to take up their crosses in the cause of life is to be applauded. I want to encourage each and every one of you to make supporting life in a visible way a part of your life.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Archbishop of Sante Fe on Cohabitating Couples

This is a pastor letter issued by Archbishop Sheehan


April 3, 2011

Pastoral Care of Couples Who are Cohabitating

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We are all painfully aware that there are many Catholics today who are living in cohabitation. The Church must make it clear to the faithful that these unions are not in accord with the Gospel, and to help Catholics who find themselves in these situations to do whatever they must do to make their lives pleasing to God.

First of all, we ourselves must be firmly rooted in the Gospel teaching that, when it comes to sexual union, there are only two lifestyles acceptable to Jesus Christ for His disciples: a single life of chastity, or the union of man and woman in the Sacrament of Matrimony. There is no “third way” possible for a Christian. The Bible and the Church teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman and opposes same sex unions.

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 with no previous marriage; and those who have a civil union who were married before. These people are objectively living in a state of mortal sin and may not receive Holy Communion. They are in great spiritual danger. At the best - and this is, sadly, often the case - they are ignorant of God’s plan for man and woman. At the worst, they are contemptuous of God’s commandments and His sacraments.

Of these three groups, the first two have no real excuse. They should marry in the Church or separate. Often their plea is that they “cannot afford a church wedding” i.e. the external trappings, or that “what difference does a piece of paper make?” - as if a sacramental covenant is nothing more than a piece of paper! Such statements show religious ignorance, or a lack of faith and awareness of the evil of sin.

The third group, those who were married before and married again outside the Church, can seek a marriage annulment and have their marriage blest in the Church. Please remember that divorce still is no reason to refrain from Holy Communion as long as they have not entered into another
marriage or sinful relationship. Many Catholics are confused on this point.

Christ our Lord loves all these people and wishes to save them - not by ignoring their sin, or calling evil good, but by repentance and helping them to change their lives in accordance with His teaching. We, as His Church, must do the same. In accord with this, I would remind you of the following:

1. People in the above three situations cannot receive the Sacraments, with the important exception of those who agree to live chastely (“as brother and sister”) until their situation is regularized. Of course, those in danger of death are presumed to be repentant.

2. These people may not be commissioned as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, not only because of scandal, but even more because one commits the sin of sacrilege by administering a Sacrament in the state of mortal sin.

3. Nor are such people to be admitted to the role of sponsor for Baptism or Confirmation, as is clearly stated on the Archdiocesan Affidavit for a Sponsor. It is critical for the sponsor to be a practicing Catholic - and can anyone be seriously called a practicing Catholic who is not able to receive the sacraments because they are living in sin?

4. When it comes to other parish ministries and organizations, I feel it best to leave these situations to the judgment of the pastor. Prudence is needed, avoiding all occasions of scandal. We must see their involvement in the parish as an opportunity to work urgently to bring such people to repentance and the regularization of their lifestyle.

5. Many of these sins are committed out of ignorance. I ask that our pastors preach on the gravity of sin and its evil consequences, the 6th and 9th Commandments of God, and the sacramental nature and meaning of Christian marriage. Our catechetical programs in our parishes - children, youth, and adult – must clearly and repeatedly teach these truths.
A Church wedding does not require some lavish spectacle and entertainment costing vast sums of money (Indeed, how often we have seen the most costly weddings end in divorce in but a few months or years!). While beauty and joy should surround a Christian wedding, we must remind everyone that it is a sacrament, not a show.

6. Those who are married outside the Church because of a previous union are urged to seek an annulment through our Marriage Tribunal. If it can be found that the first marriage lacked some essential quality for a valid marriage, the Tribunal can grant an annulment. Your pastor can help someone start a marriage case for this purpose. It is important for such couples to continue to pray and get to Mass even though they may not receive Communion, until their marriage can be blest in the Church.

Our popular American culture is often in conflict with the teachings of Jesus and His Church. I urge especially young people to not cohabitate which is sinful, but to marry in the Church and prepare well for it.

I congratulate and thank those thousands of Catholic married couples who role model the Sacrament of Marriage according to the teachings of Jesus and his Church.

Sincerely yours in the Risen Lord,

Most Rev. Michael J. Sheehan
Archbishop of Santa Fe

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Homily for Ash Wednesday

I am scheduling this to post on Wed morning, we'll see how if I do it correctly ;)

Lent is meant to be a time of conversion in our lives. It is a time to reflect upon who we are, and who we are to become.
In order to figure this out, I’d like to suggest that we need to look at some wants versus some needs. Most of the time when we think about wants versus needs, we focus on the material elements, such as do I want a new computer, or do I need a new computer. What about that new cell phone that is coming out.
I want to try to focus our discussion on a more spiritual plain instead of the material plain to which we are accustomed.
Many times at the beginning of Lent I’ll hear people talking about their intended sacrifices, or their Lenten Penance. They’ll say things like, I want to spend more time in prayer. I want to eat less. I want to give up TV. These wants are great, but this year we need to focus on our spiritual needs instead of our spiritual wants. With that in mind, I’m going to present a quick list of spiritual needs that can help us in our Lenten conversion process.
1. We need to have a prayer life that leads us closer to God. (Prayer)
a. Prayer needs to be seen as something that we get to do, not something we have to do
b. Prayer needs to help us see all that God has done
i. Father
(1) Made us all out of nothing
(2) loves us completely and unconditionally
ii. Son
(1) came into the world as our savior
(2) suffered on the cross to free us from our sins
(3) makes himself present to us in the Eucharist
iii. Spirit
(1) Fills us with grace
(2) gives us strength and courage to live out our faith
c. In the parish we offer many opportunities to join together for prayer
i. Daily Mass
ii. Stations of the Cross during Lent
iii. Morning Prayer before weekday morning Mass
2. We need to recognize Christ in the Eucharist (Prayer)
a. Eucharist is Christ’s body, blood, soul and divinity
b. We need not only to recognize Christ in the Eucharist, but to love him
i. We develop that love by spending time with him in private or public adoration
3. We need to be less focused on ourselves (Fasting and Almsgiving)
a. This is where our material wants and needs make themselves present
b. We need to be thankful for what God has given us and be willing to make a return to him those things which he has entrusted to our care
i. Our lives
(1) are we using our lives in a ways that are truly pleasing to God
(2) are we striving to eliminate sin and grow in holiness?
(3) Are we using our talents to glorify God, or to seek glory for ourselves?
ii. Our material benefits
(1) are we truly being charitable in our giving? Sometimes we are not charitable but we give to charity for the tax benefits, or for the praise that we receive for our gifts
(2) are we ensuring that are doing what we can to support the work of God through the local parish, the diocese and the world wide church?
4. We need to make sacrifices (Fasting)
a. Abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Fridays of Lent and fasting on Ash Wednesday and good Friday need to be in a spirit of penance
i. It is not meant to be a time to go out and eat lobster or other exotic fish and seafood
ii. The hunger we feel from fasting should be refocused on the hunger we should have for God
b. Our sacrifices should be seen in the spirit of penance
i. We have all sinned
ii. We develop a sense of sorrow for our sins via penance
5. We need to be serious about meeting our needs
a. I often joke about giving up football for Lent which is easy to accomplish
b. The needs I have presented today are the needs of all of us
i. It does not matter if we are Catholic, or not
ii. Fasting, prayer and almsgiving focus our lives away from ourselves
iii. We hear Saint Augustine at the beginning of his Confessions writing about God state, “for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee” (Augustin: confessions 10)

My prayer for each of you during this holy season is that you will search for the true needs of life and that your hears may rest in God. Have a blessed Lent.

Sample Bucket List

I saw this posted on another blog and thought I'd give it a try.

Which of these things have you accomplished?

Directions: Copy this list and then bold the stuff you've done.

shot a gun
gone on a blind date
Skipped school

watched someone die
Visited Canada
Visited Hawaii

Visited Cuba
Visited Europe
Visited South America
Visited Las Vegas
Visited Mexico
Visited Florida
Seen the Grand Canyon
Flown on a plane
Served on a Jury
Been lost

Traveled to the opposite side of the country
Visited Washington, DC
Swam in the Ocean

Cried yourself to sleep.

Played Cops and Robbers
Played Cowboys and Indians

Recently colored with crayons
Sang Karaoke

Paid for a meal with coins only
Made prank phone calls
Laughed until some beverage came out of your nose
Caught a snowflake on your tongue

Had children
Had a pet
Been skinny-dipping outdoors

Been fishing
Been boating
Been Water Skiing
Been Downhill Skiing
Been Hiking
Been camping in a trailer/RV
Been camping in a tent
Flown in a small 4-seater airplane

Flown in a glider
Flown in a helicopter
Flown in a hot air balloon

Walked on a glacier
Driven a Motorcycle

Been bungee-jumping

Gone to a drive-in movie
Done something that could have killed you?

Done something that you will regret for the rest of your life.
Visited Africa
Rode an elephant

Eaten just cookies or cake for dinner
Been on T.V.

Steal any traffic signs

Been in a car accident
Donated blood

Bailed out of Helicopter/Plane
Ran in a Marathon
Went Curling

Friday, February 11, 2011

Do We Know?

How comfortable are we in our faith? What have we done to educate ourselves in the teachings of the Church? I’ve been working on an article for the Harvest, our diocesan newspaper, about those from our diocese who are in formation for the priesthood or religious life. I sent each of the candidates an e-mail asking them to tell us something about themselves and their formation and discernment process. It was interesting to hear some of the responses. One in particular struck home.
In high school, I had non-Catholic friends who began to question elements of the Catholic faith that I had never been taught or about which I had been misinformed. At the same time, we received a new pastor in my home parish who began preaching and teaching about Catholic topics that were completely foreign to me, and therefore seemingly threatening. I eventually realized that there is no benefit in persisting in ignorance of the Faith; if I was going to claim to reject something which the Church teaches, then I had to know what I was rejecting. Otherwise, I knew that I should be able to answer the questions of my non-Catholic friends.
This led me to zealously study Church teaching through the catechism and various books and online articles. As I read more and more, I began to truly fall in love with the Church in the fullness of her teachings. I came to see how the Faith is one beautiful whole, not a list of doctrines which may be abstracted from each other and accepted more or less according to personal preference. Over time, all of the teachings which I had found difficult to accept (the doctrines concerning purgatory, indulgences, contraception and sexual ethics, etc.), seen in the context of the whole, made so much sense. I saw that the Church, rather than being a dead institution with a strict and negative view of the human person, is in fact a vibrant, living, integral whole with an exceptionally beautiful conception of humanity as a people called to intimate union with Jesus Christ.
Sadly, many of us find ourselves in the position where we’ve been taught things contrary to what the actual Church teaches. Many times we seem to grab on to these tidbits because they make us feel good. I’ve heard from multiple sources that some of those who have attended Tempus in our diocese over the years have come back with an understanding of the sacraments and sin that is not supported by the teachings of the Church. Sometimes we decide whether or not to attend our local parish based upon whether or not the priest preaches messages that make us feel good about ourselves, instead of challenging us to overcome sin in our lives and turn ourselves back completely to God. Christ did not condemn the woman caught in adultery. He did send her off with the command, “Go and sin no more.” As Catholics, we are called to truly seek out the truth in the Church. We are called to follow the Church in our quest for holiness. When faced with the challenge of the truth we have two options. We can embrace the truth. Or, we can run to a place where the truth is hidden in an effort to make us feel good about ourselves. If, despite all that Jesus said about Hell in the gospel, we think everyone will go to Heaven without being in a state of grace, Satan wins.
Instead of getting mad at the messenger, take some time to review the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I want to share with you just a few short sections:

1384 The Lord addresses an invitation to us, urging us to receive him in the sacrament of the Eucharist: "Truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you."

1385 To respond to this invitation we must prepare ourselves for so great and so holy a moment. St. Paul urges us to examine our conscience: "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself." Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion.

1386 Before so great a sacrament, the faithful can only echo humbly and with ardent faith the words of the Centurion: "Domine, non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum, sed tantum dic verbo, et sanabitur anima mea" ("Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul will be healed.") and in the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom the faithful pray in the same spirit:
O Son of God, bring me into communion today with your mystical supper. I shall not tell your enemies the secret, nor kiss you with Judas' kiss. But like the good thief I cry, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."