Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Robert Spencer and Jihad Watch



I would encourage everyone to listen to what Robert Spencer has to say about the threat of Islam against Christendom and the world. Spencer is a Melkite Greek Catholic from Lebanese and Syrian decent. He has studied Islam extensively and is often a FoxNews contributor and has written several books which have been on the New York Times best seller list.


Robert Spencer is Director of his website called Jihad Watch. It's a website where he compiles all Jihad-related articles into one location for the viewer to get informed about this real and serious threat. His website is http://www.jihadwatch.org/.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Continued Prayers

My wife gave birth to Brielle Elizabeth a week ago on Wednesday, August 19th. Baby Brielle had to be moved to Special Care Nursery because of some breathing complications. So I ask for your continued prayers in Rosaries, Masses, and Eucharistic Adoration for my dear daughter. May the Lord heal her little body and allow her to return home with us soon. 

Friday, July 3, 2009

Please Pray for Us


I ask your prayers for my wife and unborn daughter. My wife is 30 weeks pregnant and her cervix is dilated 2 cms. We have 10 weeks to go before the baby reaches full term. We ask the Lord to allow the baby to stay in the womb to develop. We have our time frame of when we think she should come, but we also understand the Lord's divine providence and holy will. For He knew us while we were still in our mother's womb. He formed us in the palm of His hand. He has called each of us by name and he will complete the good work that He has already begun.  

St. Gerard, Patron Saint of Expecting Mothers, Pray for Us!

Monday, April 27, 2009

St. Justin Martyr on the Eucharist


"No one may share in the eucharist with us unless he believes that what we teach is true, unless he is washed in the regenerating waters of baptism for the remission of his sins, and unless he lives in accordance with the principles given us by Christ. 
We do not consume the eucharistic bread and wine as if it were ordinary food and drink, for we have been taught that as Jesus Christ our Savior became a man of flesh and blood by the power of the Word of God, so also the food that our flesh and blood assimilates for its nourishment becomes the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus by the power of his own words contained in the prayer of thanksgiving.
The apostles, in their recollections, which are called gospels, handed down to us what Jesus commanded them to do. They tell us that he took bread, gave thanks and said: Do this in memory of me. This is my body. In the same way he took the cup, he gave thanks and said: This is my blood. The Lord gave this command to them alone. Ever since then we have constantly reminded one another of these things. The rich among us help the poor and we are always united. For all that we receive we praise the Creator of the universe through his Son Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit. 
On Sunday we have a common assembly of all our members, whether they live in the city or in the outlying districts. The recollections of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as there is time. When the reader has finished, the president of the assembly speaks to us; he urges everyone to imitate the examples of virtue we have heard in the readings. Then we all stand up together and pray. 
On the conclusion of our prayer, bread and wine and water are brought forward. The president offers prayers and gives thanks to the best of his ability, and the people give their assent by saying, "Amen." The eucharist is distributed, everyone present communicates, and the deacons take it to those who are absent. 
The wealthy, if they wish, may make a contribution, and they themselves decide the amount. The collection is placed in the custody of the president, who uses it to help the orphans and widows and all who for any reason are in distress, whether because they are sick, in prison, or away from home. In a word, he takes care of all who are in need. 
We hold our common assembly on Sunday because it is the first day of the week, the day on which God put darkness and chaos to flight and created the world, and because on that same day our savior Jesus Christ rose from the dead. For he was crucified on Friday and on Sunday he appeared to his apostles and disciples and taught them the things that we have passed on for your consideration." 
St. Justin Martyr  100AD - 165AD
First Apology in defense of the Christians

I love this quote from St. Justin. He clearly states that the bread and wine are not mere symbols and are not common. But that the two elements when consecrated by the priest, indeed transform into the sacred Body and Blood of Christ. This is ancient and modern Catholic theology. Also, St. Justin opens by stating that not just anyone can receive, but there are some criteria that's required of each communicant. He states only those who have received the Sacrament of Baptism can participate in the Eucharist. He also must believe in what the Catholic Church teaches. And lastly, he must be in a state of grace to partake of Christ. This is ancient as well as modern Catholic theology. Praise be to God.
This who scene St. Justin describes is quite different from the way our Protestant brothers and sisters administer Communion. In most Protestant denominations anyone can receive, even those not Baptized. Also, their bread and wine (most use juice...where's that in the Bible?) is looked at as mere symbols with only Christ present spiritually. Granted, we as Catholics too believe Christ is present spiritually and also recognize the symbology involved in the Sacred Elements. The difference is that the Church through the ages has always undisputedly believed it to be the transformed, literal Body and Blood of Christ. This has not changed, nor will it ever as it has in the Protestant denominations. This Eucharist was given to us for spiritual nourishment and sustainment as we pilgrims here on earth make our way to heaven. I've witnessed a few times their elements are swept up with a vacuum cleaner or tossed in the trash or poured down the sink. St. Justin, and indeed all the Saints, would have a heart attack if they witnessed such a scene. Although, given the situation of our separated Protestant brother and sisters, we as Catholics and Orthodox know that no transformation takes place and it's still mere bread and juice due to their lack of Apostolic Succession and Holy Orders. However, it still bothered me this occurred for the simple fact they were referring to it as Christ's Body and Blood (still symbolically), through they don't mean so literally. I notified the pastor this was happening and I have no doubt he took care of the issue. 
The Fathers of the Church, throughout our 2000 year history, speak in the same manner as St. Justin (100AD - 165AD) regarding the very real and actual presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. I love the continuity and stability of our one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. May God continue to protect his Holy Catholic Church and also continue to lead our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI as supreme head and leader of the Church on earth. Viva La Papa!  

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Christos Anesti!...Alithos Anesti!


Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

I just came home from the Vigil Easter Mass, the Church says Saturday night is the "Vigils of all vigils".  It's clear why. At St. Michael's Parish, we had a large number of catechumens and candidates come into the Church tonight. It was a blessing to see the joy on their faces as they received the sacraments of initiation. Glory to God we as a church are growing. 

Holy Week has been really special to me this year. Something I've come to discover and love is how the Church takes us through Christ's Passion, Death, and Resurrection in the realist way outside from actually having been there 2000 years ago. From Holy Thursday when Christ instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice and the Holy Priesthood in the Upper Room, on through the Passion and Sacrifice of Christ on Good Friday.  Good Friday is the only day in the liturgical calendar there is no Eucharistic Sacrifice. No Eucharistic prayer. The altar is stripped bare, no candles are lit and the church is dark. The crucifix hanging over the altar in every Catholic church becomes a vivid image of the reality that occurred many years ago outside Jerusalem. We proclaim Christ crucified! We venerate the Cross and we leave the church in an attitude of solemnity and gratitude. Then, of course the reason for our joy is the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ on Sunday as he defeated death. It has never been clearer and more real to me than when I've become part of the Catholic Church. I've been able to witness all of this firsthand in the liturgical life of Christ's true Church. When the joy of Sunday arrives, we see for ourselves that Christ is not in the tomb, death can not hold him. The Eucharistic Sacrifice resumes, the altar is covered, the candles lit, and the Lord comes once again to us as Bread and Wine.  

Indeed, Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

University of Notre Dame and Obama

One can imagine the angst I felt when I heard the following news. It appears that the University of Notre Dame, the "Mecca" of Catholic academics, is planning on having Pres. Obama speak at this years commencement ceremony. And to make matters worse, the University will be giving Mr. Obama an honorary Doctorate of Law degree. Tis a sad sad day fer an Irishmen. 

For those who are not quite sure why this is a problematic issue: Mr. Obama is staunchly pro-abortion, so therefore, he is in favor of allowing the murder of the most innocent members of our society.  And the Bishops of the Church have made it very clear that Catholic Institutions are to not 1. have those who are for the killing of the innocent unborn speak at public functions because any gesture in having them do so would be an "acceptance of their actions" and 2. to receive any honorary degrees for the same reason pro-abortionists are to not speak at Catholic Universities/Colleges. 

Hopefully the President of Notre Dame listens to those beckoning and pleading him to not following through with both of these actions. 

Catholic News Agency has an article:
http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=15443

Monday, March 2, 2009

Church Fathers and "Sola Scriptura"


Supposing that the Apostles had left us nothing in writing, should we not still follow the rule of doctrine which they delivered to those to whom they entrusted the churches? This rule many barbarous nations follow, who, being without ink or parchment, have the word of salvation written by the Spirit in their hearts, and guard diligently the tradition which has been delivered."  --St Irenaeus, Adv. Heres. 1.iii.c.4

"Hence it is plain that the Apostles did not deliver to us everything by their epistles, but many things without writing. These are equally to be believed. Wherefore let us believe the tradition of the Church. It is tradition. Seek no further."--St John Chrysostom, (commenting on 2 Thess. 2:14)  Hom. iv.in 2 Thess.

Hmm, Scripture Alone as the sole rule and teacher of the Christian Faith? Not according to these Fathers. 

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Great Lent Has Begun

Yesterday started the beginning of Lent. Let us prepare ourselves for the glory of Christ's Passion, Death, and Resurrection in the celebration of Easter with fasting, almsgiving, and prayer. 

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Mass is 110% Biblical

Greeting: 

Priest: In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matt. 28:19)

People: Amen (1 Chr 16:36)

Priest: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Cor13:13)

People: And also with you.

Penitential Rite: 

All: I confess to almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault. (Jas. 5:16) In my thoughts and in my words, (Rom. 12:16) In what I have done and what I have failed to do; (Jas 3:6) and I ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, all the angel and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God. (1 Thess 5:25)

Priest: May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life. (1 John 1:9)

People: Amen (1 Chr 16:36)

All: Lord have mercy. (Tb 8:4) Christ have mercy. (1 Tim 1:2) Lord have mercy.

Gloria:

All: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth. (Luke 2:14)
Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, (Rev 19:6)
we worship you, (Rev. 22:9) we give you thanks, (Eph. 5:20)
we praise you for your glory. (Rev 7:12)
Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father,(2 John 3) 
Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world:
have mercy on us; (John 1:29
You are seated at the right hand of the Father, receive our prayer. (Rom 8:34)
For you alone are the Holy One, (Luke4:34
You alone are Lord, You alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ. (Luke 1:32) 
with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. (John 14:26)

[The Liturgy of the Word consists of four readings from Scripture: the first is typically from the Old Testament, the second a psalm, followed by a reading from one of the epistles. Finally, the Gospel is proclaimed during which the people stand out of respect for the Word. The chosen readings change daily.]

Click here to get today’s liturgical readings from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

[A Sermon on the readings follows.] (2 Tim 4:1-2)

Profession of Faith: [the Nicene (or Apostles) Creed] 

All: 

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, (Gen14:19) of all that is seen and unseen. (Col1:16)
We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, (Luke 1:35) eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten not made, one in being with the Father. (Heb 1:3) Through him all things were made. (John 1:2-3) For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: (John 3:13) by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary,(Matt 1:18) and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, (John 19:16) he suffered, died and was buried. On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures.(1 Cor 15:3-4) He ascended into heaven(Luke 24:51) and is seated at the right hand of the Father. (Col 3:1) He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead (2 Tim 4:1) and his kingdom will have no end. (Luke 1:33)
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of Life, (Acts 2:17) who proceeds from the Father and the Son. (John 14:16) With the Father and Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the prophets. (1 Peter 1:10-11)
We believe in one holy, catholic and apostolic Church. (Rom 12:5) We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. (Acts 2:38) We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. (Rom 6:5) Amen

Liturgy of the Eucharist: 

[The gifts are brought to the altar. These include the bread and wine and the offering collected from the people.] (Malachi 3:10)

Priest: Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. (Eccl. 3:13)It will become for us the bread of life. (John 6:35)

People: Blessed be God forever. (Ps 68:36)

Priest: Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink. (Luke 22:17-18)

People: Blessed be God forever. (Ps 68:36)

Priest: Pray, brethren, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father. (Heb. 12:28)

People: May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our sake and the good of all his Church. (Ps 50:23)

Eucharistic Prayers: 

Priest: Lift up your hearts.

People: We lift them up to the Lord. (Lam3:41)

Priest: Let us give thanks to the Lord Our God. (Col 3:17)

People: It is right to give him thanks and praise. (Col 1:3)

Preface acclamation: 

All: Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. (Is 6:3) Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.(Mark 11:9-10)

Eucharistic prayer: 

[There are four of these, based on ancient prayers of the Church. Eucharistic Prayer Two follows as an example:] 

Priest: Lord, you are holy indeed, the fountain of all holiness. (2 Macc. 14:36)Let your spirit come upon these gifts (bread and water and wine) to make them holy, so that they may become the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Before he was given up to death, (Phil 2:8) a death he freely accepted,(John 10:17-18) he took bread and gave you thanks. He broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said: Take this all of you, and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you. When supper was ended, he took the cup. Again he gave thanks and praise, gave the cup to his disciples, and said: Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this is memory of me. (Mark 14:22-25) Let us proclaim the mystery of faith.

All: Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life, Lord Jesus, come in glory. (Heb 2:14-15)

Priest: In memory of his death and resurrection, we offer you, Father, this life-giving bread, this saving cup. (John 6:51)We thank you for counting us worthy to stand in your presence and serve you. May all of us who share in the body and blood of Christ be brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor.10:17) Lord, remember your Church throughout the world; make us grow in love together with our Pope and our bishop, and all the clergy. Remember our brothers and sisters who have gone to their rest in the hope of rising again: bring them and all the departed into the light of your presence. (2 Macc 12:45-46) Have mercy on us all; make us worthy to share eternal life with Mary, the virgin Mother of God, with the apostles and with all the saints who have done your will throughout the ages. May we praise you in union with them, and give you glory though your Son, Jesus Christ. (2 Thes 1:4-5) Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.

All: Amen. (Rom 11:36)

Communion Rite: 

The Lord’s Prayer: 

All: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matt 6:9-13)

Priest: Deliver us, Lord, from every evil and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our savior, Jesus Christ. (John 17:15)

All: For the kingdom the power and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen

Priest: Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles; I leave you peace, my peace I give to you. (John 14:27) Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church, and grant us the peace and unity of your kingdom where you live forever and ever.

Priest: The peace of the Lord be with you always! (John 20:19)

People: And also with you!

[The priest then directs the people to exchange a sign, such as a handshake or a kiss, or a word of God’s peace to one another.]

Breaking of the Bread: 

All: Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace. (John 1:29)

Communion: 

Priest: This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper. (Rev. 19:9)

People: Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed. (Matt 8:8)

[Communion is distributed to the faithful at the altar by the priest and lay ministers.]

Dismissal:

Priest: Blessed be the name of the Lord. Now and forever. (Dan 2:20) May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (Luke 24:51) Go in peace(Luke 7:50) to love and serve the Lord. (2 Chr 35:3)

[During the blessing the people make the Sign of the Cross, the traditional sign of the baptized and a public sign of their belief in the power of God.]

People: Thanks be to God. (2 Cor 9:15)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

"See God in every situation"

I was sitting there on this Saturday mid-morning and all of a sudden these words came to me, "See God in every situation". Lately, I have been worried about my current job situation. I'm ecstatic to be working for a Catholic radio station. However, I'm just concerned whether I can make it financially working off commissions alone at this time. And not to mention news of the current global financial downturn is everywhere you look. I've never felt more useless than I do right now. Before, I had college and a job to occupy my time. I felt like I was "doing something" that would get me to "some where else". Now, since I'm finished with my bachelors and I was let go from my job, I sit at home watching my daughter. Now, to be clear, I find that to be very precious and I am grateful I get to spend this valuable time with her. I love taking care of her and watching her advance each day. I truly know this is more important than any professional job that I could ever take on. But I just cant help it to feel like it should be the other way around. It's my responsibility to be the "bread winner" for my family, especially since I'm finished with college. 

I'm eager to get started selling for the radio station. I think there is a lot of potential there and Toledo has an extremely large amount of Catholic organizations, businesses, schools, hospitals, parishes, etc. that make this endeavor promising. So with that, I'm on God's good humor and I stand patiently waiting for the station to be up and running. And I must remember to "see God in every situation".  

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Our Lady Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral - Toledo, OH


I visited my diocesan Cathedral today. It is absolutely BEAUTIFUL!  I was in Toledo for a meeting with my new employer Annunciation Radio, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to visit the cathedral since I was in the area. 

While I was in prayer at the Cathedral, Bishop Leonard Blair came into the sanctuary from the Bishop's chapel with a group of priests. I did not have an opportunity to speak with him to ask for his blessing. He was busy speaking to three priests and then he went back. They continued on with a tour of the Cathedral which was given by an older gentleman who seemed like he had been working there for many years and was now in his retirement years. I over heard the guide say to the three visiting priests that a department of the Vatican has recognized Rosary Cathedral with the title of the most "amazingly beautiful cathedral" in the United States. I have a friend who I'm sure thinks the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Washington, D.C. is just as impressive.  Here are some pictures I took today of Rosary Cathedral:   

























Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Demonology

Here's a really interesting and informative website:

http://www.religiousdemonology.com/

Thursday, February 5, 2009

St. Michael the Archangel Parish - Findlay, OH

My home parish made the national magazine, St. Anthony's Messenger. My RCIA sponsor, Chris Brooks was one of the interviewees. That's exciting!

http://www.americancatholic.org/messenger/feb2009/feature1.asp
How to Be a Dynamic and Evangelizing Parish
By Father Norman Langenbrunner and Jeanne Hunt
Two very different parishes show what it takes to be both energetic and spiritual.



PHOTO BY GENE PLAISTED, O.S.C.

CAN YOU HEAR the death knell ringing in your parish? In these times of declining membership, can the Catholic Church in the United States breathe new life into the Body of Christ? Is a resurrection possible? If we focus on the basic mission of the Church, namely, to take the Gospel into the world (to evangelize), we have reason for hope—contrary to prevailing perceptions.

In the broadest sense of the word, evangelizationis spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. In the narrowest sense, it is presenting the Gospel in such a way that those who hear it are led to respond in an “aha” or “now I get it” moment. In between the broadest and narrowest sense lie catechesis, faith formation, liturgical celebration and theology.

On the practical level, the parish is both the object and the subject of evangelization. In this setting, two dynamics work simultaneously: A parish must be evangelized and a parish must be evangelizing.

St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Findlay, Ohio, is a “megachurch” with a census of 10,000 members (www.findlaystmichael.org). Holy Infant Parish in Durham, North Carolina, is a moderate-sized parish with 771 families (www.holyinfantchurch.org).

Both parishes give witness to the power of taking evangelization seriously. They provide encouraging examples of American parishes which are both evangelized and evangelizing. They give witness to a healthy vision of Church in our day.

A Catholic Megachurch

St. Michael, founded in 1839, is the sole Catholic parish in Hancock County, Ohio, in the Diocese of Toledo. It fits into the category of “megachurch,” that is, a worshiping community of 2,000 or more members in attendance every week.

The new church, built to accommodate the large congregation, seats 1,500. It is a beautiful, modern, inviting structure in the Romanesque style. Although the structure is as large as a cathedral, it maintains the feel of a parish church.

The parish plant is a complex of church, school (three rooms of each grade), gymnasium, auditorium and offices. As impressive as the buildings are, more remarkable are the active involvement of the parishioners in church ministries and the enthusiasm of their participation in liturgies.

The pastor, Father Mike Hohenbrink, believes the enthusiasm and participation of parishioners flow from their openness to the Holy Spirit. The people have been invited to take their faith seriously.

Geri Leibfarth, the parish’s director of religious education, suggests that there are three essential steps in the process: “Keep the people informed, provide opportunities for faith formation and then send them out in a variety of ministries.”

She credits the pastor with the ability to “connect with the parishioners and learn their needs. Father Mike is good at that,” she says about the priest who has been pastor of the parish since July 2000. “We have to listen first. Programs that don’t meet the needs don’t work.”

One of the needs obvious to St. Michael’s membership was ongoing adult education. A monthly systematic study of the faith titled “What Do Catholics Really Believe?” has an attendance of some 300 members. Parishioners asked for a parish mission and over 400 attended the four nightly sessions offered during Lent in 2007.

“There are over a hundred ministries in our parish,” a parishioner explains, “and several of them are to people outside the parish. We take care of our own, but we don’t stop there.”

Asked what sustains him at St. Michael’s, parishioner Chris Brooks says, “In brief, God’s grace through the Eucharist. I also experience his love through the church members.”

Beth Seman has been a parishioner her entire life “and it feels more like my family every day. We have a vibrant parish with over 100 ministries available for all ages. A person can choose to be part of a ministry by simply praying. Or a person can become involved, using God-given gifts and talents to minister to others. There is something for everyone.

“Our current staff and ministry teams are just as dedicated as our priests. Their hard work really shows,” Beth adds. “We have also been blessed by many parishioners willing to volunteer their time and talent.”

According to Father Mike, “St. Michael’s has benefited from strong lay participation over the past 40 years. Their good understanding that they are Church has helped them to be faith-filled and to search for ways to grow in faith. Our history of parish retreats, enrichment programs, participation in RENEW [a spiritual-development program] has raised the bar for them to be active in ministry.”

About 40 percent of the congregation attends Mass regularly, which is about 10 percent above the national average. Father Mike maintains that his people take prayer very seriously, a reflection that “prayer calls us to ministry and ministry calls us to prayer.”

In a parish-sponsored synod (a gathering of parishioners for assessment and planning), members agreed to renew their efforts in Catholic education for adults and youth, to be more welcoming and inviting, to improve their marketing and advertising, and to engage in additional outreach.

City flooding in 2007 prompted community-minded parish members to launch “Calming the Waters,” a flood-relief outreach to citizens hardest hit by the deluge. Other parishioners offer year-round support to an adopted parish and school in Belize, a small country with the highest unemployment rate in Central America.

“The parishioners have taken ownership,” Leibfarth says about these and other forms of parish outreach. “I believe that this is the work of the Holy Spirit.”

Father Mike is understandably proud of the physical plant, but he knows that there is more to a parish than a “build it and they will come” dream. “We have the facilities,” he says. “Now we can focus even more on the mission and ministries they imply.”

The megachurch is not the only successful model for the evangelized church. Every type of parish church has the potential for realizing the mission of evangelizing and being evangelized. Within each parish there are all the charisms necessary to make Church.

When the U.S. bishops issued Go and Make Disciples, their 1992 national plan and strategy for evangelization, they outlined three basic goals:

1. To encourage Catholics to get excited about living their faith and sharing it with others.

2. To invite our fellow citizens to listen to the Gospel and to become members of the Church.

3. To promote Gospel values in society so that the power of Christ may transform our nation.

The bishops then listed dozens of strategies for achieving those goals, such as programs for renewal, Spirit-filled celebrations of the liturgy, better catechetical materials, formation of diocesan-evangelization committees, review of hospitality, ecumenical outreach and parish-education programs geared toward social justice.

Clearly, it is not the size of a parish that determines its spirit, its outreach, its power to evangelize. Every ecclesial assembly has the potential. The deciding factor appears to be whether the assembly is “called forth.”

Holy Infant Parish is a case in point. Tucked in a pine grove deep in Durham, North Carolina, this vibrant parish brings a unique blend of intergenerational catechesis to 771 families.

Holy Infant sustains an active faith community based on gatherings for members from preschool to the elderly. At these gatherings catechesis and evangelization are featured.

In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke describes the ideal Church as a Christian community which is “united, heart and soul; no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, as everything they owned was held in common” (4:32). The clue to achieving such a Church may be found in Acts 2:42, in Luke’s list of these four characteristics:

■ The members are guided by the teaching of the apostles.
■ They attend to the needs of the community.
■ They devote themselves to prayer.
■ They celebrate the breaking of the bread (Eucharist).

Lynn Sale, the parish’s director of faith development, believes that the parish’s success is based on a desire for interpersonal support that the traditional Catholic parish may not offer. The intergenerational model “widens the circle of formation to include parents, children and adults without children,” says Lynn.

Holy Infant, located in an area known as Research Triangle Park, is a transient parish that attracts Catholics beyond territorial boundaries. Lynn says that last year, 89 families joined the parish and 81 families left the parish. Yet, the Triangle area is expanding and so is Holy Infant Parish.

More than half of Holy Infant’s membership is young families, with 60 percent consisting of adults between the ages of 15 and 60. Parishioners are well-educated: Durham has the highest per capita number of Ph.Ds. The transitory nature creates a special challenge for this community.

At the time of this interview, Father Mike McCue, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, was the pastor of Holy Infant. (He was reassigned last summer.) “Holy Infant has a solid tradition of member involvement,” he says. “People make liturgy, faith development, service and community happen. In addition, our people have a good understanding of these elements of parish life.”

While the parish has a fine reputation as a spiritual center that emphasizes Salesian spirituality, the shift to intergenerational faith-development programs seems to have boosted the spiritual energy of Holy Infant.

Intergenerational means that younger and older members are brought together for instruction, faith formation and prayer. Older members model faith life for the younger ones, and the younger ones inspire the older members.

According to longtime parishioner Tom Goehl, “The appeal of Holy Infant Parish stems from our priests’ understanding that it is imperative to address not only the parishioners’ spirituality but also their humanness. This understanding has led to a vibrant parish whose people truly care about each other and the wider community.”

So what accounts for such dynamic and sustaining energy in this mid-sized Southern parish? In 2000, the vision of the parish changed when parishioners undertook a long-range plan for evangelization. It was John Roberto’sGenerations of Faith Resource Manual: Lifelong Faith Formation for the Whole Parish Community that re-created the parish with “new wineskins,” says Lynn Sale.

A previous pastor, Father John McGee, invited Lynn to join the staff and immerse their ministry in this intergenerational model. Eight years later, the staff works in a collaborative style that encourages everyone to cross over their job descriptions as they work together developing the lifelong learning model.

The old CCD model was discarded. HI-life, as it is now called, offers faith formation for everyone at Holy Infant. Throughout the year, a theme-based curriculum is offered to the entire parish. The annual theme (justice, creed, prayer, sacramental life) is integrated into everything the parish does, from homilies to outreach ministries.

Last year’s theme was “Acting for Justice.” This led the parish to start “Just Faith”: small-group discussions. In addition, parishioners built a Habitat for Humanity house and moved forward with a parish-stewardship campaign.

Paulo Chiquito, the father of three and an active HI-life participant, reports, “Coming from a very traditional Catholic upbringing, HI-life breathed a new life into my concept of catechism teaching. The sessions are very dynamic and challenging.

“I love going together as a family, but with the opportunity for separate age-specific activities,” Paulo explains. “The kids love these and the grown-ups have a chance for a more mature presentation and discussion. Some sessions offer beautiful music, superb acting and some very spiritual experiences.”

Mike Somich, a member of the HI-life core team, notes, “I think most men are uncomfortable expressing their faith. I have found that, in the development and presentation of our intergenerational gatherings, parishioners are very supportive, so much so that, at a recent gathering, I was willing to witness to the role that the Holy Spirit has played and is playing in my life.”

HI-life gatherings turn the entire parish space into an interactive learning center. The vision of Holy Infant is to create a lifelong learning model in which more and more pieces of parish ministry and formation opportunities can be added as the community evolves into a deeper understanding of the Gospel.

Father Mike had an optimistic outlook about the parish: “For our future, I hope we grow in understanding and in action in these areas of parish life. I can see us continually rising to the challenge to keep fresh and alive—not giving in to the tendency to rest on our laurels. Church is a living body.

“One future task that we share with the whole American Church is that of welcoming new Americans, people from cultures that are so different from standard, middle-class American culture,” he added. “We have to make sure that their Church is a home for them.

“At Holy Infant, we have people from Asia, Africa and Europe,” Father Mike explained. “We need to make sure they feel a part of the parish so that we no longer think entirely in terms of ‘they’ and ‘we.’”

When Father Mike called the people forward, Holy Infant parishioners echoed that call to one another. Marshall Robers, member of the parish’s pastoral council, points out that the parish adopted the pineapple, a longtime symbol of hospitality, as the parish’s symbol. “Parishioners feel connected to the parish as a whole,” he says, “rather than merely having a close friendship with a few people.

“Stewardship goes hand in hand with this overall hospitality and sense of belonging, since parishioners willingly give of themselves when they are within a nurturing environment,” Marshall explains. “Once stewardship and hospitality have been embraced, the overall opportunities for faith development increase dramatically, since parishioners are connected with each other and growing in faith together, not only at events targeted for faith development but also within the ministries in which they participate.”

There is a movement in the Church in America that is unprecedented. The evangelization that is taking place plays out in a variety of forms. The model of Church is changing as numbers of active Catholics decline and the priesthood is undermined by crises.

Yet never before has there been such a unique energy to make Church. What is significant is that there are as many ways to create an evangelized parish as there are faith communities to fill them. St. Michael in Findlay, Ohio, and Holy Infant in Durham, North Carolina, are different in many ways: large vs. mid-sized, Midwest vs. South, megamodel vs. a smaller intergenerational faith community. Yet each parish has discovered a working solution to creating a vital, living community of faith.

There is no template in evangelizing the Catholic parish. Every one is a unique faith family. The demographics, the leadership style of the pastor and staff, the cultural and ethnic character of the members—all this and much more determine the means through which a faith community will invite and sustain conversion for its membership.

The days in which a formula could be imposed on a Catholic congregation are over. While Catholic dogma and doctrine remain steadfast, the manner in which a Catholic parish catechizes and evangelizes is developed through a vision that is its own.

These two Catholic models of evangelization offer great hope for the future of the Catholic Church in the United States. Invigorating the People of God, the Holy Spirit has been quite busy building up the Church, not in cookie-cutter fashion, but in ways peculiar to the talents and needs of the people.

Within both communities, it is apparent that this Spirit provided all the gifts necessary to create and fulfill a healthy vision of Church. There are gifts sufficient to do this work and, just as Jesus promised, we have not been left orphans.

On several occasions Pope John Paul II challenged the Church to undertake a program or process he called “a new evangelization.” It was not new in its content but new in its energy, its style, its language. He said, “No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church, can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples” (Redemptoris Missio [Mission of the Redeemer], #3).

The task he set before us is the same daunting mission given by Jesus himself: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations; baptizing them...and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded” (Matthew 28:19-20). Translating that responsibility into strategies, tactics and actions is as mammoth a task today as it was in the first century.

By breaking the mission down into its various parts, we can muster the courage and decipher the ways to accomplish it. We recognize that:

1. Evangelization is the responsibility of all Christians. 
2. The message of evangelization is Christ and the Gospel. 
3. The target audience of evangelization is believer and nonbeliever alike.
4. Evangelization occurs when we give witness by words and deeds. 
5. Evangelization is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit accomplished with human cooperation.

An evangelized parish is in the never-ending process of hearing the Gospel and being formed by it. An evangelizing parish is “bringing the Good News of Jesus into every human situation and seeking to convert individuals and society by the divine power of the Gospel itself” (Go and Make Disciples, U.S. bishops).

Every parish has the duty and ultimately the resources to be an evangelized, evangelizing parish, whether large or small, rich or poor, ethnic or multicultural, rural or urban. The primary dynamic for evangelization is the Holy Spirit. The primary message is the Good News of God’s love for the world.

Evangelizers are the people who believe that they are loved by God and who want to share that Good News with others. Although we tend to make the matter complicated, in essence, evangelization occurs when we live the Gospel.

Father Norman Langenbrunner, a parish priest in Cincinnati, Ohio, has written for Catholic publications as well as for The Gettysburg ExperienceJeanne Hunt, advisor for catechesis and evangelization at St. Anthony Messenger Press, preaches parish missions and gives workshops on adult and family faith formation

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

On the constant road to conversion

Today was a very humbling day for me. My day started off with meeting Deacon Mike in a Bowling Green coffee shop. I met Deacon to discuss possible employment opportunities with a new Catholic radio station he's starting in the Toledo, Findlay and Sandusky areas. This will be a great way for me to serve the Lord and His Church. Deacon and I are praying for the Lord's will to be done concerning employment. I need to ask my wife for her blessing as well. This is very exciting!

After meeting with Deacon, I decided to stop in to St. Thomas More parish and visit Father Michael Danderand. He has been such a wonderful pastor and councilor to me. But, I was told he was up in Toledo for a meeting.  So I took advantage and spent some much needed time in prayer before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. The Sacred Host was exposed in the monstrance on the altar today. I was in near tears as I sat there pouring over my fears, hopes and dreams before the Eucharist. After spending fifteen minutes or so I thought I must be heading home. My friend from Columbus is home and we had a lunch meeting. 

On my way to the car Father Michael happened to be at the church. He welcomed me into his office and we sat there talking for about a half an hour. Our visits usually consist of me telling Fr. Mike what is new in my life and he tells me how things are at the parish. I inevitably share with him my struggles of being the only Catholic I know and how I DESPERATELY want my family to join me. He gives me really good advice on how we are to live and love as Christ does. I shared with Father Michael my brokenness and how I've been filled with a lot, a lot of anger. Through our discussion he helped to reveal how selfish, arrogant and prideful my heart has been to others. Though it wasn't the Sacrament of Confession, I was very humbled and realized how I have been treating those I love regarding their differing faith. Father Michael gave me the Litany of Humility to pray for God's gift of selflessness.  

Monday, February 2, 2009

Interview with an Exorcist



I want to post this interview with Father Gabriele Amorth, the Chief Exorcist of Rome. He has a few books out describing his experiences as an Exorcist and possession. He has done thousands of exorcisms so he's quite "seasoned". Here's the interview from: 
http://www.medjugorje.org/framorth1.htm

Interview With: Fr Gabriele Amorth

Don Gabriele Amorth is an exorcist in the diocese of Rome and the president of honour of the Association of Exorcists that he founded in 1990, and of which he was president until the year 2000. During his stay at Medjugorje in July 2002, he gave an interview to Fr. Dario Dodig.


Fr. Dario Dodig: Don Gabriele, you are exorcist in the diocese of Rome?

Don Gabriele Amorth: I am an exorcist in Rome and president of honour of the Association of Exorcists, which I founded. In the year 2000, we celebrated its 10th anniversary. I was 75 years old and I asked someone else to take over this duty. When Bishops are 75, they are retired, so I did the same!


Don Gabriele, would you be so kind as to tell us what is exorcism?

Exorcism is a public prayer of the Church done with the authority of the Church, because it is done by a priest named by the Bishop; it is a prayer for liberation from the demon, from the evil influence of the demon or of the evil provoked by the demon.


When we speak about exorcism, can you tell us how Satan can influence Christians?

The influence of Satan is immense. Satan acts in two different ways. The ordinary action of Satan is when Satan tempts men to evil. All men, from their birth to their death, are involved in this struggle against Satan who tempts them into evil. Jesus, because He had a human nature, submitted Himself to temptation coming from Satan. Except the ordinary action, Satan also acts in an extraordinary way, which consists in provoking malign troubles, which can go on until satanic possession.


When we speak about possession, how can we defend ourselves from Satan?

We have to first speak about prevention - what to do to avoid these evils. The measures of prevention are to live in the grace of God, to be faithful to prayer and not to do works that open the door to the demon, especially not to do any occult works. There are three main works of occultism: magic, spiritism and Satanism. The one who is dedicated to these things exposes himself to the extraordinary action of the demon.


Is the influence of Satan in the world of today stronger than before, especially his influence on the youth, for example through music?

Today, Satan has free hands. This does not mean that he has more power than in the past, but the door is wide open to him. Primarily, today we live in a period of little faith. It is purely mathematical: when faith declines, superstition grows. When we abandon God, we give ourselves to practices that open the door to Satan. There is no doubt that today’s media have done much in favour of Satan, first by the immorality of certain shows, the abundance of movies showing violence, horror or sex. Except this, media have put in the first plan and have given popularity to figures of wizards and magicians, and so they give publicity to their works.


Is the exorcism the highest degree of action against Satan? Are their other means that can come before this last degree?

Conversion! The first thing that we ask from people who come to us is to live in the grace of God, to be faithful to an intense sacramental life and to the life of prayer. After this, if it is necessary, we encourage them to receive prayers of healing and of deliverance, as they are practiced in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. After a number of such prayers, the person is either already set free, or the need is evident to do the exorcism itself. Then we do the exorcism, keeping in mind that exorcism is a prayer where the result does not always come immediately. Sometimes, years of exorcism are needed for a person to be delivered.


Is the exorcism the highest form of action in the name of God?

Theoretically, yes. Nevertheless, we have to keep in mind other factors, which are very important before God. The exorcism is a prayer. Like all the prayers, it is the more efficacious the stronger the faith is. Faith has a fundamental importance. This is why we often read in the lives of saints that they have delivered people from diabolic possession without being exorcists themselves.


When we speak about Satan and satanic action, we usually have fear within us…

It is because we are not any more used to exorcism. Priests in general believe very little in the extraordinary action of Satan. If a bishop proposes to them to do the exorcism, they are frightened, as if they think: “If I leave the devil in peace, he will leave me in peace. If I fight him, he will attack me.” This is wrong. The more we fight Satan, the more he is afraid of us.


In her messages in Medjugorje, Our Lady says often that Satan is strong and she invites us to pray, to fast and to be converted.

Yes, this is true. In an Italian magazine, I had the occasion to comment on Our Lady’s messages where she speaks about Satan. She often spoke about this. She underlined that Satan is powerful and that he wants to destroy her plans. She invited us to pray, to pray, to pray.


In her messages, Our Lady spoke about the Rosary, about the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, about prayer before the Cross, and she said even that through prayer wars may be stopped.

Yes. Through prayer, we can even stop wars. I always understood Medjugorje as a continuation of Fatima. According to Our Lady’s words in Fatima, if we had prayed and fasted, there would not have been World War II. We have not listened to her and therefore there was a war. Also here in Medjugorje, Our Lady often calls to prayer for peace. In her apparitions, Our Lady always presents herself under another name to show the goal of her apparitions. At Lourdes, she presented herself as the Immaculate Conception, in Fatima as the Queen of the Holy Rosary. Here in Medjugorje, Our Lady presented herself as the Queen of Peace. We all remember the words “Mir, mir, mir” (peace, peace, peace) that were written in the sky at the very beginning of the apparitions. We see clearly that humanity is running the risk of war, and Our Lady insists on prayer and on Christian life to attain peace.


In her messages, the Queen of Peace also underlines fasting, which is a bit forgotten in the Church. She speaks about fasting according to what is written in the Gospels - that through fasting and prayer we can eliminate all influence of Satan.

This is true. First in Fatima and now here in Medjugorje, Our Lady speaks often about prayer and fasting. I think that this is very important, because contemporary men are following the spirit of consumerism. Humanity searches how to avoid any kind of sacrifice and so it exposes itself to sin. For Christian life, except prayer, we need a certain austerity of life. If there is no austerity of life, there is no perseverance in Christian life. I will give you an example - today, families fall so easily apart. They celebrate the wedding, but the couples divorce quickly. It happens because we are not used to sacrifice any more. In order to live together, we have to be able to also accept the deficiencies of others. The lack of spirit of sacrifice leads to the fact that we do not live Christian life in fullness. We see with what facility abortion is being committed, because of the lack of readiness to make a sacrifice to educate children. This is how the first reason of marriage is being destroyed. This is because there is no practice of making sacrifice. Only if we are used to sacrifice ourselves, we will be able to live Christian life.


The fruits of Medjugorje are numerous. Conversions are numerous. A theologian says that here, heaven came down on earth. Our Lady invites us to abandon ourselves totally to her so that she may lead us to Jesus. Isn’t this the essential for Christian life?

No doubt! Medjugorje is really a place where one learns to pray, but also to sacrifice oneself, where people are converted and change their lives. The influence of Medjugorje is worldwide. It is enough to think about how many prayer groups came about thanks to the inspiration of Medjugorje. I also lead a prayer group, which was founded in 1984. This group is already 18 years old. We live one afternoon as it is lived in Medjugorje. There are always 700 or 750 people. We always meditate on Our Lady’s message of the 25th of the month and I always read this message in relation to a sentence from the Gospel, because Our Lady does not say anything new. She invites us to do what Jesus thought us to do. Groups like mine exist all over the world.


Is it true that Medjugorje is a “big mouthful” for Satan?

Surely. Medjugorje is a fortress against Satan. Satan hates Medjugorje because it is a place of conversion, of prayer, of transformation of life.


Would you give us your advice?

The “testament” of Mary, her last words written in the Gospel, are “Do whatever he tells you”. Here in Medjugorje, Our Lady insists again that the laws of the Gospel are respected. The Eucharist is at the centre of all Medjugorje groups, because Our Lady always leads to Jesus. This is her main concern: to make us live the words of Jesus. This is what I wish to everyone. May the Immaculate intercede for you, so that the blessing of God may descend on all of you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!


Thank you, Father, and may God give you a long life!