Wondering About Wrath

Today’s Gospel read at Catholic Masses (where the “A” readings were not used) was about Jesus cleaning the Temple. Clearly in this passage Jesus manifests anger. Why is Jesus angry? Why is he throwing tables over and driving people out? Is this anger a sin? But Jesus never sinned! So how can we understand his anger? In fact, there are a lot of verses all through the Bible that speak of God’s wrath, or anger. How can we understand it and square it with his mercy and patience?

I preached a sermon on these topics today here at my Parish, Holy Comforter – St. Cyprian.  You can get it here: The Whys and Wherefores of Wrath

A more complete listing of my sermons is here: http://frpope.com/audio/recordings.php

Understanding the Roman Catholic Church

I found a very balanced and respectful video describing the beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. What is interesting to me is that it is produced by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. While there are a few things with which I might quibble (for example, I think that it was more than just the controversy about indulgences set off the Protestant Reformation, and that the sampling of American Parish life is too limited), nevertheless the video is well-produced and quite thorough.

Here is the YouTube description of the video:

The purpose of this video is to help Protestant Christians and others develop a better understanding of the Roman Catholic Church, its history and basic beliefs by listening to Roman Catholics tell their own story...

The 35-minute program is organized into three parts: Roman Catholic beliefs, Church history, and Catholic Renewal. The program includes interviews with Roman Catholic theologians, scholars, pastors, and lay people. Portions of this program were recorded in Rome, Assisi, Trent, and Casino, Italy.

After centuries of mistrust, indifference, and even hostility, attitudes between Roman Catholics and other Christians are changing. Dialogue, cooperation, and understanding is healing old wounds, both locally and up to the highest organizational levels.

The Roman Catholic Church is the largest block of Christianity in the world. In the U.S., 65 million Roman Catholics are organized into 200 archdioceses and dioceses and more than 19,000 local Catholic parishes. Each year over one million infants and 70,000 adults are baptized in U.S. Roman Catholic churches. Yet for all its great size, influence, and long history, many non-Roman Catholics understand very little about the largest Christian denomination.

How to Go to Confession

   

          The Sacrament of Confession

 

Part One:

A Brief Examination of Conscience

 

I. I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.

 

– Have I been more concerned with what people think of me than what God thinks of me? Have I been impious by ridiculing sacred things or rites? Have I engaged in superstitious practices of any kind? Have I been indifferent about the Lord’s teachings as proclaimed in the Scriptures and the teachings of His Church?

 

II. Thou Shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain.

 

– Have I always spoken with reverence about God, the saints, and holy things? Do I use the name of the Lord often in Prayer?

 

III. Remember to keep Holy the Sabbath Day.

 

– Have I attended Mass on each Sunday and Holy Day of obligation? Have I seen Sunday as a day of rest set aside for the Lord or do I treat it like just any other day? Do I engage in unnecessary work on Sunday or pressure others to do so?

 

IV. Honor thy father and mother.

 

– Do I show respect and love for my parents? If I no longer live with my parents, do I call or write them often to show my love and concern? What about other lawful superiors and authorities in my life; do I honor, respect, and obey them as I ought?

 

V. Thou shalt not kill.

 

– Do I show reverence and respect for human life from conception to death? Have I in any way approved of violent or vengeful behavior? Have I nursed hatred in my heart for others? Have I endangered the lives of others by reckless behavior? Have I endangered the spiritual life of anyone by encouraging them to commit serious sins or by giving bad example?

 

VI. Thou shalt not commit adultery

 

– Have I entertained impure or lustful thoughts? Have I committed impure actions either with myself or someone else? Have I tempted others to impurity by immodest dress or suggestive talk? Have I ridiculed or downplayed the virtue of chastity? Have I intentionally looked at indecent magazines, movies, or pictures?

 

VII. Thou shalt not steal.

 

– Have I unjustly and intentionally damaged the property of another person? Have I cheated in any way or engaged in dishonest practices? Have I made illegal photocopies, audio, or video recordings? If I am an employer, have I paid a just wage? If I am an employee, do I give an honest day’s work for my wage? As far as possible, do I pay my debts in a timely manner?

 

VIII. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

 

– Have I lied about others? Do I care for the good name and reputation of others, or do I often endanger it by gossip and the spreading of rumors? Am I a truthful person? Have I rashly judged others? Have I told secrets about others that I am bound to keep?

 

IX. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife

 

– Have I entertained sexual desires or thoughts about someone who is not my spouse? Do I love my own spouse and thank the Lord for him or her?

 

X. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.

 

– Do I envy the success of others? Am I angry that others seem to have more than I do? Have I sought the things of earth more than those of Heaven?

 

  

 

Part Two:

The Celebration of the Sacrament

 

The penitent sits or kneels, makes the sign of the cross and says,

Bless me Father, for I have sinned

My last confession was __ (days, months, years) ago.

 

Then the penitent tells the priest the sins committed sin the last confession. Usually this is concluded by this or a similar phrase:

 

For these, and other sins which I cannot recall

at this time, I ask pardon and forgiveness.

 

Now the priest will offer some advice or encouragement to the person and then assign a small penance to be performed. He will then ask for an act of contrition. The following act of contrition is commonly recited, but others may be used.

An Act of Contrition

 

Oh My God, I am heartily sorry

for having offended you by my sins.

I detest all my sins

not only because I fear

the loss of heaven and the pains of hell

but most of all

because they offend Thee my God

Who art all good and deserving

of all my love.

I firmly resolve with the help of Thy Grace

To confess my sins

To do my penance

and to amend my life.

Amen.

 

The priest then gives the absolution by extending his hand over the penitent and saying these words:

 

God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son, has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the Church may God grant you pardon and peace and I absolve you from your sins in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The priest will often bid the penitent farewell by saying,

 

“Go in Peace”

 

 

The following video is a little silly (due to its rather mechanistic format), but it actually does a pretty good job of laying out the process of going to confession.

Vocations Anyone?

If you have never seen this video about the vocation to the Holy Priesthood then I dare you to watch it! This is one of the best vocations videos ever produced.

And Here is Part Two:

Why not call and get things started?

Office for Priest Vocations in the Archdiocese of Washington  (301) 853-4580

The Church and stem cells

What does the Catholic Church teach on stem cell research? Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl calls President Barack Obama’s decision today to void restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research “very disheartening,” and notes the availability and success of ethical alternatives. Here’s an excerpt from his Catholic Standard column, Lifting Limits on Embryonic Stem Cell Research: Politics over Science and Ethics:

 

The announcement that President Barack Obama has signed an executive order voiding restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research is very disheartening news. It is described by Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, as a “sad victory of politics over science and ethics.”  Human life is not to be treated as a commodity, as a raw material to be used in science experiments, but as the gift of God that it is.

 

What is particularly distressing about the President’s decision is that it is not necessary. Ethical alternatives to embryonic stem cell research, such as the use of adult stem cell tissue and umbilical cord blood where there is no destruction of innocent human life, already exist and have been used successfully for decades.

 

The Catholic Church supports scientific advances, but the decision to move forward should not be based on whether something can be done, but whether it should be done. As a society, we are called to protect the dignity of all human life and therefore must oppose embryonic stem cell research…..Read the entire column here.

“The Feminine Genius”

myrrhbearing_women

The “feminine genius” is the way that Pope John Paul II spoke about the contribution of women to church and society. Today in many countries in Europe and South America, International’s Women’s Day is celebrated. In Italy, in many of the parish churches, bouquets of mimosas are given to women who just happen to be walking by the church!

 

In Every Age

 

In honor of International Women’s Day, I’d like to celebrate the feminine genius that has shaped the Church. There is not enough space to really do the topic justice and to be fair, at times in the history of the Church it failed to protect the dignity of women and to fully recognize the gifts of women to the church and society. Today is a day to celebrate the church as a place that has nurtured the gifts and leadership of women. In the realm of the spiritual life, the Church never denied women’s call to holiness and to live fully the life of the Gospel. In every age of the Church, it has identified and honored women as models of what it means to be holy, of what the feminine dimension of discipleship looks like.

 

Evangelists, Martyrs and Doctors

 

The Church teaches that Mary, the Mother of God, is the model of the perfect disciple for men and for women. In Mary, we see that discipleship requires that we hear the voice of God, respond to God’s invitation and be of service in building the kingdom of God. Mary Magdalene is called the “Apostle to the Apostles” because it was to her that Jesus entrusted the first announcement of his resurrection. The African women, Perpetua and Felicity are two of our earliest martyrs and have left us a first-person testimony of their faith and martyrdom. Among the 33 doctors of the Church are three women. Teresa of Avila, a Spanish Carmelite, Catherine of Siena, an Italian Lay woman and Thérèse of Liseux, a French Carmelite who have through their lives and in their writings made a contribution to the faith that will be relevant in all ages. For this they are named Doctors of the Church.

 

Catholic Women’s Contribution to church and society in the United States

 

In the United States, it was the genius of many women who built the Catholic schools and Catholic healthcare systems that exist today. Among the first women’s colleges are Trinity University in D.C., founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and St. Mary’s College, founded by the Sisters of Providence. Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton is the first native-born saint from the United States. She is joined by Saint Katherine Drexel, a Philadelphia native whose religious order, the Blessed Sacrament Sisters served in ministry to Native Americans and Black Catholics. Saint Katherine founded Xavier University, the only historically black Catholic college in the United States. Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, a Native-American woman with a ministry to the sick and aging and Mother Elizabeth Lange, founder of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the fist Black Roman Catholic order of sisters are just a few of the great American Catholic women. Many Mexican-American women find in the Venerable Concepcion Cabrera de Armida, a mystic and writer, a model for living fully the life of a Catholic wife and mother.

 

Every new age calls forth new models of living the fullness of the Christian life. There is no reason not to think that the Church and the country will continue to be shaped by a feminine genius as Catholic women continue to answer God’s call to study the faith, serve in ministry, nurture strong marriages, raise healthy and happy children and bring the Gospel to bear in professions of every kind. In a recent interview with the German Press, Pope Benedict reflected “I believe women themselves, with their energy and strength, with their predominance, so to speak, with what I would call their ‘spiritual power,’ will know how to make their own space.”

 

 

 

Vocations Anyone?

It is often observed that vocations to women’s religious communities have been in steep decline for years. But not every community of Women Religious has been affected to the same degree. Some religious orders are in fact flourishing. One example is the Nashville Dominicans.

Here in the Archdiocese of Washington, the Domican Sisters of St. Cecilia (Nashville Domincans) serve at  the Cardinal Hickey Academy and live at St. Anthony’s Convent in North Beach, MD: (410) 286-3393. Vocations anyone? Why not just pick up the phone and get started?

Why is Missing Mass a Serious Sin?

One of the forgotten teachings of the Catholic Church is that we are required to attend Mass every Sunday, and that to fail to do so is to commit a grave sin. This is taught very clearly in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (# 2181). But why does the Church teach us this? Is this just ploy to get us to come to Church and to drop something in the collection plate? Well, that may be of help to the Church, but it is not the reason the obligation to attend Mass is taught. The reasons for this mandate are contained clearly in Sacred Scripture.

 

We begin in an obvious place, the Ten Commandments. Exodus 20:8 says it clearly enough, Remember the Sabbath Day to Keep it Holy. Every now and then, some one will say to me, “God doesn’t care if I go to Church.” I usually respond, “Well that’s strange; I wonder why God put it in the Ten Commandments?” It seems that God does care. Please understand, God does not merely ask for or wish for our presence, He commands it. Now the Church’s teaching that it is mortal sin to miss Mass comes a little more into focus.

 

But some claim that although Scripture mandates a day of rest, there is no requirement to attend Church. This is really not the case. The Book of Leviticus spells out the requirement to keep holy the Sabbath in the following language: Six days shall work be done; but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest and sacred assembly; you shall do no work; it is a Sabbath to the LORD. (Lev 23:3). Thus, notice how this text spells out that the Sabbath is not only for rest but for “sacred assembly.” This phrase, “sacred assembly,” is what is meant by the word “Church.” The word “Church” means “assembly.”

 

Further, it is clear enough that Jesus understood the 3rd Commandment to include sacred assembly. In His own observance of Sabbath, He attended the “synagogue” (another word for “assembly” or “gathering”). Scripture says Jesus attended the synagogue on the Sabbath habitually (cf Lk 4:16).


Yet another scriptural teaching on our requirement to attend Mass is contained in the admonition from Hebrews that we are must not neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another (Heb 10:25).

 

For some to say that they don’t need to assemble, to meet together with fellow Christians in Church on Sunday (our Sabbath), is surely unbiblical. The Old Testament commanded it; Jesus attended, so who are we to fail in this regard? We must not neglect to meet together. We must not neglect to receive Holy Communion and be instructed in the Word of God.

 

Another biblical reason that Sunday Church worship is required of the Christian is in Jesus’ mandate that we receive Holy Communion. Jesus warns us not to miss receiving Holy Communion with these words: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you have no life in you. (John 6:53) Without the Holy Eucharist, which is the Body and Blood of Jesus, we are starving ourselves spiritually. If you and I were to stop eating our worldly food we would soon grow weak and eventually die; it would be a form of suicide. This is no less true of our spiritual food. If we stop receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus in Holy Communion, we grow weak and eventually die, spiritually; we “have no life in us”! Skipping Sunday Mass sets up a deadly pattern of spiritual starvation; it is a deadly thing—a mortal sin!

 

For all these biblically-based reasons the Church properly teaches, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin. (CCC # 2181)