Phil 4: 4-8

Monday, November 18, 2019

Just Say "NO" to the CCHD Annual Appeal

It's that time of the year again. The annual appeal for the USCCB's Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) is set for the next-to-last weekend in the liturgical year. On November 22 and 23, throughout the US, the faithful will hear the appeal for a "second collection" for the CCHD.

But--have we, the faithful, heard about how the CCHD allegedly has been using this second collection?

Over the last few years, reports from journalists investigating the CCHD show some grants to questionable, at best, recipients. By "questionable," I refer to apparent activities of the grantee organizations that run contrary to Church teaching.

What kind of activities, you ask?

Pretty much the range of hot-button issues: abortion, contraception, homosexuality, and the like. Based on what I have seen on sites that seem reputable to me, these issues continue ,while the CCHD seemingly refuses to really discuss them.

So--what should we do?

I guess one question to ask ourselves is whether this is where we want our hard-earned money going. This is especially so when you can find any number of other organizations with more transparency and more prudent decisions about who gets the benefits of their largesse. (As well, some parishes seem to struggle with accounting for second collection receipts, so even if a second collection appeal is made for a good charity, you're probably better off donating directly to the charity, rather than going through a second collection.)

Might we consider other alternatives for helping the poor, and just say "No" to the CCHD?

As for me and my house, that's what we'll do.

Support Life for the Poor and Underprivileged

This last weekend at St. Francis of Assisi, Castle Rock, Sarah Smith, the US Director of Universal Chastity Education, (UCE) appealed to our local parish for support. UCE has been welcomed at St. Francis for several years, and our parish community has generously supported it through a second collection.  

However, this year, there was no second collection taken up for UCE as has been done in past years, unfortunately.

That's why I'm writing this brief post. UCE is a pro-life organization approved by the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church and other denominations located in the countries where it operates. This is the 15th anniversary of its founding by a couple of doctors--Catholics from Southern Colorado--of this wonderful organization. 
Over the last 15 years, UCE has positively affected the physical and spiritual lives of almost a half a million young people in Africa. You read that right--nearly 500,000 young people have signed abstinence cards, committing to chaste lives. This has resulted in lower incidence rates of HIV/AIDS and lower rates of teen pregnancy in Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania. These young people have been given their lives back through the efforts of UCE, and their commitment to living chastely. 

The organization's mission is to promote, through Christian principles, abstinence and faithful marriage as the healthiest way of life. The goal of UCE is to reach all people with the message of abstinence and faithfulness in marriage while providing them the strength to implement this healthy behavior, working with minimal budgets and some great volunteers. 

My wife, Maggie and I were blessed to visit the Uganda operation some years ago. Having previously served on the board up until this most recent year, I can tell you that the organization and its board, with a handful of paid staff, are all about pro-life Christian principles and living life, in charity, in accord with message of the Gospel. 

Please prayerfully consider donating whatever you can to give UCE a hand

Thank you, and may God bless you abundantly!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

What to Make of the Church's Current Situation

Friends and acquaintances are asking us what to make of the recent disclosures about abuse within Holy Mother Church. We seemingly hear about it or read about it in every Catholic blog, news site or website these days. Faithful Catholics are feeling a range of emotions—from a sense of betrayal or violation, to anger, sadness and confusion. Some even have threatened to leave the Church.
As many clergy and faithful already have stated, one abuse victim is one too many. We all need to pray for anyone who has suffered at the hands of trusted authorities within or outside of the Church. This kind of evil has no place in our world, especially within the Church. So, what’s my take on it? For one thing, we each need to pray for the victims, and for our Church. As well, we need to pray for all priests and bishops.

Abuse Comes to Us from the Evil One

What’s behind all of this abuse? We are seeing a manifestation of evil against good—the spiritual warfare of the devil against God. As Peter Kwasniewski stated in a post prior to the most recent news reports:
… [the devil works to undermine the priesthood and religious life, which exemplify and effectively bring about in this world the ordering of all creation, through Christ, to the Father, who is the beginning and end of all things. The common element in all these attacks is the devil’s fury that anyone or anything natural should ever be subordinated to that which is supernatural—that a faithful, radical self-sacrifice should be the path of salvation and blessedness.
Yet we are all—not just clergy and religious—called to battle as members of the Church Militant. It’s unfortunate that this term apparently fell out of favor after Vatican II.  We all need to be reminded that we are engaged in a battle, daily, for our souls and the souls of others. As St. Paul reminds us:
For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Eph 6:12.
Therefore we should “put on the whole armor of God.” A life of prayer, penance and frequent reception of the sacraments will provide us this armor.

What about Justice?

Sure, you may be thinking, pray—but what about the injustice that has gone on through these abuses? God is a God of mercy and a God of justice. We don’t get one without the other—the two go hand in hand. God will take care of it in the end. He’s in charge, not us. What’s more, as Cardinal Burke reminds us,
…For the bishop who has failed grievously in this area, the Church’s penal remedies are expiatory remedies for his good also. They address principally the good of the flock because a bishop is a bishop for the care of the flock.  For the bishop to prey upon the flock, committing mortal sins, this is simply unacceptable and it has to stop…
The Church has processes above and beyond the USCCB’s supposed oversight that will apply ultimately to bishops who’ve participated in, or turned a blind eye toward, such disgusting activities.
If you see in a province the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and righteousness, do not be amazed at the matter, for the high official is watched by a higher, and there are yet higher ones over them. Ecclesiastes 5:8

Fifty Years After Humanae Vitae

Christopher Check of Catholic Answers reminds us that the grave sins we’re reading about today are really a manifestation of the rejection of Humanae Vitae within the church. Pope Paul VI attempted to teach us about chastity in his encyclical. However, many of us, including bishops and priests, chose not to pay attention. What do you get when you separate the sexual act from married procreation? You get what we see now in our culture, with a no-holds-barred approach to sexual gratification. And this has pervaded less-than-holy members of the clergy whom the devil has grabbed. Yet we need to remember that many, many more—the vast majority of our clergy and religious—actively work to live out chaste and holy lives to bring souls to God for His greater glory. Encourage them in their vocations, especially in these dark times.

One “Holy” Church?

In our creed, we state that we believe in one, holy, apostolic and catholic Church. Yes—and, you may ask, what about the unholy characters who make up its membership? Well what about ‘em? That includes you and me—we’re all sinners. Jesus came to heal us sinners. His Church:
… is held, as a matter of faith, to be unfailingly holy. This is because Christ, the Son of God, who with the Father and the Spirit is hailed as ‘alone holy,’ loved the Church as his Bride, giving himself up for her so as to sanctify her; he joined her to himself as his body and endowed her with the gift of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God…All the activities of the Church are directed, as toward their end, to the sanctification of men in Christ and the glorification of God… The Church on earth is endowed already with a sanctity that is real though imperfect. In her members perfect holiness is something yet to be acquired. CCC 823 – 825 [Emphasis added]
The Church, because of Christ, is holy, but we on earth are imperfect and need to work toward greater holiness—toward deeper union with Our Lord, and away from sinful habits.

Our Sacramental Life in the Church

When will all this end? Who can know? But what we do know is that the Catholic Church is the Church Jesus founded. In it, we have the fullness of truth, an uninterrupted line of succession from St. Peter, the first pope, (Mt. 16:18) on down through today with our current pope. As well, we have a full sacramental life, from Baptism and Confirmation through Anointing of the Sick. Two incredibly important sacraments are the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist. Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are able to receive not only absolution for our sins from God through the priest, but graces to help us avoid sin going forward.
As Catholics we believe that the Holy Eucharist is the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Just consider that, throughout the month of August, our Sunday Gospel readings have focused on the Bread of Life Discourse from John 6. In this discourse, Jesus tells us to eat His body and drink His blood. He doesn’t tell us to eat and drink symbols or to do this symbolically. Some of his disciples walk away from this—it’s too much for them to consider. He doesn’t call them back and try to soften it or explain it away. He means what He says. Today, some disciples want to walk away as well. No matter what happens, why would anyone really walk away from the Church and the Holy Eucharist? As a friend stated after Mass recently, “It’s like leaving Jesus because of Judas!”

What Are Our Sources of Information?

Keep in mind that reports from secular media most likely are biased against the Church. This should be nothing new to any of us. A great deal of animosity exists against the Church. Consider that with such a bias, reporters and others may spin “facts” to create headlines. One pundit who has read the PA report states:
…There are many vicious critics of the Catholic Church who would like to weaken its moral authority, and will seize on any problem it has to discredit its voice. Why? They hate its teachings on sexuality, marriage, and the family…There is nothing wrong with Catholic teachings on this subject: If priests had followed their vows, and not their id, we would not have this problem. Those who refuse to use the brakes God gave them, straight or gay, should be shown the gate or never admitted in the first place…
We probably have not heard the last of all of this. We might consider praying to the Holy Spirit to be filled with the plenitude of His gifts, especially those of counsel and prudence, as we consider new revelations in this area.

What Can We Do?

Some of us might benefit from a reduced frequency with which we review the latest reports on these abuse scandals (and news in general). In other words, can we become a bit more savvy about where we focus our attention? Does any particular action or decision draw us closer to God or not? Is this situation, in fact, something over which we some personal responsibility? I like Dan Burke’s advice in this area. If it’s not something we have any control over, other than through prayer, and if it causes us to lose our peace, then we should let it go. In that regard, perhaps praying through Psalm 131 can help us keep things in perspective:
Lord, my heart is not proud;
nor are my eyes haughty.
I do not busy myself with great matters,
with things too sublime for me.
Rather, I have stilled my soul,
Like a weaned child to its mother,
Weaned is my soul.
Israel, hope in the Lord,
now and forever.

Prayer and Penance

We do need to pray. Pray for the victims, pray for justice for the bad clergy, pray for the good clergy, and pray for those souls who are discouraged in their faith by all of this. If we’re not already praying a Rosary a day, we need to begin. St. Padre Pio said that, “The Rosary is the weapon for these times.” Besides being a wonderful devotion, it can be a terrific aid to mental prayer. By reflecting on each mystery as we recite the prayers, we can draw closer to Our Blessed Mother and Jesus, opening ourselves to further graces. As well, it can provide a source of comfort in times of agitation. Remember—agitation is not from God—it’s from the evil one. Pray the Rosary to counter the agitation.
To get through these difficult times, we ought to pray for an abundance of grace to grow in, and strengthen, our virtues and those of our brothers and sisters in the Church. Staying in a state of grace will keep us open to the supernatural virtues. To stay in grace, we should go to Confession no less frequently than monthly, and more often is even better. Attending Mass and receiving Holy Communion as often as possible (besides Sundays, on weekdays as well) will help us increase in grace and our closeness to God.
Doing penance—making some small sacrifices and offering them up will be helpful as well. Consider cutting back on time spent on social media as one way of doing so. Given the ubiquity of social media, this could be a fairly easy opportunity for many of us. It just might help us refocus on God, and on His peace, joy and love for us which never diminish. But make no mistake about it. We are individually, and collectively, in spiritual combat. As soldiers of Christ, we need to engage the enemy with confidence in Jesus, Our King and Commander, and Our Lady, Virgin Most Powerful, Help of Christians.
 Adapted from post originally published by the author at Catholic Stand on 8/27/18

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Volunteering: Why You Don’t; Why We Need You

As part of the Mystical Body of Christ, we’ve each received gifts unique to our position in the Body, with graces that equip us for our work within the Church. Yet, few seem to use these unique gifts for the benefit of the Church.   

Who’s Doing the Work?

At your parish, who makes up the cadre of dedicated volunteers that keep it running smoothly? Research conducted some time ago by the Dynamic Catholic Institute revealed some startling findings: In a typical Catholic parish, 7% or less of registered parishioners generally contribute 80% or more of the financial support and 80% or more of the volunteer hours worked.

Common Characteristics of Active Catholics

The research also identified four things that the roughly 7% of more involved Catholics do which the other 93% generally don’t do as much of: prayer, study of the faith, generosity and evangelization. Those more involved Catholics have cultivated habits of daily prayer such as praying the Rosary, attending daily Mass and praying through Lectio Divina. They study the faith, continually learning more about it.  As a result of their studies, they seem to be less likely to complain about the positions of the Magisterium and about the Church in general. (In these current times, with bishops and cardinals taking what at best can be described as "unusual" positions on faith and morals, there may be more complaining, or at least questioning, from Catholics who strive to learn about their faith.  But I digress...) These most active parishioners also give more time and financial support to the Church, and are enthusiastic about sharing their faith with others.

Why More Parishioners Don’t Volunteer

On the other hand, research shows that this group of the most active laity actually may discourage others from participating at their parish by, among other things, being territorial or cliquish, and using religious terminology that others don’t understand. They also may not relate well to others who are not as far along in their spiritual journey as they are.
Territorialism. We probably have all seen this in any number of volunteer membership organizations, from social clubs to church organizations. Symptoms might include long-time members being annoyed by new members’ suggestions for ways of doing things—what might be called “symptoms of a closed mind”—“that will never work here, we tried it before, it’s all too complicated,”and so on.
Other signs might be a hesitancy to actually accept a volunteer’s help because, well the job is just too important, and it takes years to get good at it—“if it wasn’t so complex, I could teach you to do it, but it’s just so critical, and we simply can’t take a chance [or take the time] right now,” or, “I prefer to do this by myself” (implying that no one else can do it right).
As well, some people, for whatever reason, seem to relish the thought of being the only ones doing the work—“Look at me. I am so overworked and no one else is helping me.” It satisfies a need of theirs, but it doesn’t help the Body of Christ. So, is it a question of control or simply wanting to be a martyr? It doesn’t really matter—what matters is that it’s getting in the way of building up Christ’s Body here on earth, today, in our parish.
Cliques.  Does the group welcome newcomers into it?  Or does it keep them at arms’ length?  When a newcomer joins a small group at a table for donuts after Mass, are they included in the conversation and an attempt made by “the regulars” to get to know them?
At other parish social events, are new parishioners invited to join an intact group’s banquet table, or are they simply left to fend for themselves in breaking the social “ice” as newbies? Do we actively work to bring new volunteers into a committee discussion, or do we use committee time to make personal plans between the more well-acquainted members? What kind of messages are we sending to new members of our faith community? It’s difficult to get enthusiastic about volunteering if one is held at arm’s-length socially.
Use of terminology that others don’t understand.  We occasionally do have some of this in the Church. From a practical perspective, where and what are the narthex, the nave, the sanctuary and the ambo? What is a pall, a purificator, a thurible, or a corporal? This one seems to be pretty easy to avoid, though, with just a little self-awareness.
Not relating well to others who are at different places in their spiritual journey. This might be another, longer description of what some call “spiritual pride.” And boy, does pride do us in! The evil one will play to our weaknesses. He will use against us any forward movement we’ve made spiritually in something of a spiritual ju-jitsu move. We can make it so easy for him with our pride!
A wise confessor suggests that we need to look into each person’s face and see the face of Christ—recognize that God made him or her in His image and loves them very much. As well, look in the mirror and see that we’re a work-in-progress that depends totally on God’s grace. Then, reach out to that other person. By walking with someone as a friend in Christ, we can provide them with the entre they need to become more active in the parish, regardless of where they are in a spiritual growth path.

The Role of Staff

In addition to the above reasons that prospective new volunteers get discouraged, I’d suggest adding one dealing with parish staff. At some parishes, a new parishioner may run into a staff member who is either or both incompetent and inattentive. When this happens, it might stifle the volunteer’s drive to contribute. It doesn’t have to, though. Persistence pays off. If you feel that the Holy Spirit is calling you to share your gift with the parish, uncooperative staff members won’t pose an insurmountable barrier if you really want to get involved.

Other Reasons for Lack of Volunteers

There are any number of additional reasons that some don’t participate at their parish. A pastor of mine from long ago believed that many people don’t volunteer and serve because that’s not the way they were raised in their home, the “domestic church.” Without the modeling from parents or a subsequent conversion of heart and mind, we are less likely to consider getting very involved in our parish.

Some Common Reasons Given by Less Active Parishioners

Many other reasons are given by individuals as to why they don’t participate more fully in either attending activities at their parish or taking a leadership role to help with the activities.  Some might include:
“I’m just too busy—I am already ‘slammed’ and can’t possibly give the parish any time.” That certainly can be possible in a time when many corporate cultures can be characterized as “doing more with less,” leading to more intense and longer work hours. We also can’t forget that in many households, both spouses are working outside the home. And some households are single parent families. In either case, it leaves little room for church-related or other volunteer activities outside of the little family time left after the daily grind. This often is exacerbated by the extracurricular, secular activities of the children that can run the entire family ragged. But can this be the primary cause for all of the other 93% of Catholics not being more active in their parish?
 “None of the activities are that interesting to me.” In some less active parishes, this could be the case. However, in most parishes that are a bit more active, would there not be an area or two, or a weekend ministry that might fit into one’s schedule? Volunteering, for example, as a hospitality minister for an occasional Sunday Mass is just one example.
“So-and-so [fill in the blank—a parish lay leader, a priest, a staff member, you name it] ticked me off and I don’t want to have anything to do with the parish now.Really? I’d like to know of any organization outside of the parish where someone hasn’t even inadvertently ticked us off. They’re all made up of humans, and humans make mistakes. Part of following Christ is showing His merciful love and forgiveness to others. He loves each of us so much, and yet we’ve done nothing to earn it—so why can’t we all model His behavior a little more closely? 
As well, we shouldn't infer and assume intentions of others. If we do assume, let's assume positive, charitable intent on the part of the other person, even if they're something of a bull in a china closet. It might help here as well, to look into that other person’s face and see the face of Christ—and recognize that God made him or her in His image and loves them very much. And here again, let's look in the mirror and see that we each also are a work-in-progress that depends totally on God’s grace. Each of us probably has a lot of "opportunities" for our own personal improvement and growth we can address.
And think about this: if we're withholding volunteering at our parish because of a slight we perceive, who are we really hurting?  First, we need to look in the mirror--we hurt ourselves when we don't stay open to the graces God wants others to receive through us.  And--we hurt our community because we aren't fulfilling the unique role that God has called only us to carry out in His plan for the salvation of souls. It's serious business, and we need to treat it as such. God gives us such an abundance of grace, if we're just open to it and want to make use of it to help bring souls to Him.
“They have plenty of help already. I don’t need to do anything but show up.” This seems to be more of a “take” than a “give” approach to building a healthy “give and take” relationship.  When one sees ads for volunteers, it means the parish really does not have plenty of help already. We each need to help our parish in its mission as part of the Mystical Body of Christ. 
“I just don’t enjoy socializing and trying to make conversation with strangers, so it’s really hard to get more involved.” As something of an introvert myself, I can relate to this, but getting to know people at church isn’t that hard. For one thing, we all arguably have something really big in common—our faith. For another, there usually are so many needs to be met at the parish that someone will be really happy to make our acquaintance and welcome us into the fold.
No matter which side of the volunteer fence we’re on—whether on the inside, already volunteering, or on the outside looking in, it seems that we might all benefit from some prayerful consideration of our role at the parish. Taking it to prayer and asking what we individually are doing to help bring souls to God for His Greater Glory through our work at the parish might be a good starting point. 
If we’re not doing as much as we might actually be called to do, perhaps through prayer we can be directed to doing something more, however seemingly small, to lend a hand. If we’re already involved, perhaps we can obtain the grace through prayer to more quickly welcome and meaningfully involve newcomers. Participating in Called & Gifted workshops, such as those conducted at my parish and within our diocese can help focus one's efforts. We can take advantage of this prayerfully determined focus and awareness to be able to work closer with Jesus for His Church. In doing so, we can help build up the Mystical Body of Christ through our cooperation with His grace:
And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ… speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and builds itself up in love. – Eph. 4:11-16

Adapted from a Catholic Stand essay of this author, published previously in that online magazine.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Good Shepherds and Good Sheep

[The following is a transcript of a homily given by Fr. Ricardo Rosales during the daily Mass at St. Francis of Assisi parish in Castle Rock, CO on May 8th, 2017, with some minor changes in formatting, etc.]

We all need to become good shepherds and good leaders. Everyone who is entrusted with the care of others is a shepherd. Pastors, parents, teachers, doctors, nurses, government officials, managers and supervisors, among others, are all shepherds.

We become good shepherds by:
·        Loving those entrusted to us,
·        Praying for them,
·        Spending our time, talents and blessings for their sanctification, and
·        Guarding them from physical and spiritual dangers.

At the same time, we need to become good sheep in the fold of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.  Our parish is our sheepfold, and our pastors are our shepherds. Jesus is the High Priest and the Bishops are successors of the Apostles.  The pastors are their helpers, and parishioners are the sheep.

As good sheep of the parish, the role of the parishioners includes:
·        Hearing and following the voice of our shepherds through:
o   Their homilies,
o   Formation classes, and
o   Activities in the parish.
·        Receiving the spiritual food given by our pastors through:
o   Regular participation in the Holy Mass,
o   Frequent reception of the Sacraments, and
o   Participation in prayer services
·        Cooperating with our pastors by:
o   Giving them positive suggestions for the welfare of the parish,
o   Encouraging them in their duties, and
o   Lovingly correcting them with constructive comments when they misbehave or fail in their duties
·        Always praying for our bishops and priests
·        Praying, as well, for vocations.

And a quote from Saint Jean Vianney that I would add to the end of Fr. Ricardo's notes:
The priest is not a priest for himself; he does not give himself absolution; he does not administer the Sacraments to himself. He is not for himself, he is for you.” 
(c) 2017 Rev. Ricardo Rosales.  All rights reserved.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Year-End Indulgences Available to the Faithful


26. Prayers of Supplication and Acts of Thanksgiving

§1  A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who devoutly assist either at the recitation or solemn singing of

1.      the Veni Creator, either on the first day of the year to implore divine assistance for the course of the year, or on the solemnity of Pentecost;
2.      the Te Deum on the final day of the year, to offer thanks to God for gifts received through the course of the entire year.

§2  A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who,

1.      at the beginning and end of the day,
2.      in starting and completing their work,
3.      before and after meals,

devoutly offer some legitimately approved prayer of supplication and act of thanksgiving (e.g., Actiones nostras; Adsums; Tibi gratias; Benedic, Domine; Domine, Deus Omnipotens; Exaudi nos; the Te Deum; the Veni Creator; the Veni Sancte Spiritus; Visita, quaesumus, Domine). 

"Benedic, Domine" is simply the standard Catholic blessing before meals--"Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts..."
"Veni Sancte Spiritus" -- "Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love."