The Catholic Church celebrates annually the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary, on March 19th. This beautiful feast always falls during the season of Lent. Because it is a “solemnity”, there is a “Gloria”, “Creed”, and Second Reading during the liturgy. The “Gloria” is of special significance because even on Sundays throughout Lent, this beautiful part of the Mass is not sung or said. Why is Saint Joseph considered such an important person in the Catholic Church? First and foremost, he was chosen by God to be the husband of Mary, and therefore, the foster father of Jesus. What an incredible honor and privilege given to Joseph! Also very important, is the fact that Joseph’s ancestry can be traced back to King David, whose “house” Jesus would come from (2 Sam 4-5). What else do we know of Joseph from the Sacred Scriptures? He was a “righteous man”(Mt 1:19). Rather than expose Mary’s perceived “adultery”, which would have led to her being stoned to death, Joseph was just going to divorce her quietly. This is the point where we also see Joseph’s “obedience” to God. After the angel told Joseph God’s plan – that Mary was still a virgin, and that her son Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, Joseph “did as the angel of the Lord commanded him”(Mt 1:24). His obedience to God’s will flowed out of his strong faith in the Lord. Joseph was also a very humble man, accepting sort of a backseat in the whole scheme of things. He was the only sinner in the Holy Family, which included the Immaculate Conception (Mary) and God (Jesus). If something went wrong, it was always Joseph’s fault! Joseph’s humility can also be seen in the fact that there are no recorded words of his in the Scriptures. He was a man of silence, simply accepting God’s Plan as it unfolded. There is so much more that can be said of St. Joseph. Let us seek his intercession, asking him to pray for us to Jesus, and most importantly, let us try to imitate his example of holiness.
Our US Bishops have asked us to set aside Saturday, June 21st to Friday, July 4th, to pray, fast, and speak up for religious liberty in our country. Under the current Obama administration, our religious liberty is under constant attack. For example, through his HHS (Health and Human Services) mandate, Catholic as well as other Christian employers are being forced to provide contraception and abortion inducing drugs for their employees through their health insurance plans. Of course, the Obama administration is trying to say that it is no big deal because the insurance companies will be the ones who provide the contraception and abortion inducing drugs through their health plans, and not the employers. But what the administration doesn’t understand is that the Catholic and/or Christian employers have to sign the forms, thus complying with the evil of providing the contraception and abortion inducing drugs for their employees. Go back almost 500 years, and we can see a similar decision faced both St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More. St. John Fisher (1469-1535) was first the chancellor at Cambridge, England. He then became a Bishop at the age of 35 years old. Bishop Fisher was a very courageous bishop, writing 8 books against heresy at the same time that the Protestant Reformation was just beginning. St. Thomas More (1478-1535) was a husband, father of 4, lawyer, literary scholar, and the chancellor of England. It was in 1531 that King Henry VIII decided to divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon, because she hadn’t bore him a successor to his throne. Of course, the Pope wouldn’t approve of this, nor his bishop John Fisher. St. Thomas More the chancellor was also a faithful Catholic, and therefore wouldn’t go along with the king’s adultery either. King Henry then decided to not only go along with marrying his mistress Anne Boleyn, but then made himself the head of the church of England, thus breaking away from the Catholic Church. The king was so enraged with Bishop Fisher and Thomas More, that he had them arrested on high treason charges, imprisoned in the Tower of London, and finally beheaded – martyred. Both St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More are great intercessors for us Catholics who put God first in our lives, and are trying to preserve our religious liberty. As we get ready to celebrate our own Independence Day as a nation tomorrow, let us not forget the blood of these martyrs who stood up for what they believed in, and were even willing to die for their religious beliefs. God Bless!
One of the “hot button” issues that gets brought up frequently within the Catholic Faith is the question of married priests. Unfortunately, those who bring the “issue” up are usually not practicing their Catholic faith and see married priests as a solution to the sexual abuse crisis. Of course, those who sexually abuse little children need serious counseling and help, rather than a wife and their own children. So should Catholic priests be able to marry? Well, first and foremost, when one is ordained a priest, he marries the Church. Like Jesus the High Priest, the Church becomes his bride. In this sense, every priest is “married”. Then there are also catholic priests that are physically married as well. These priests are part of the Eastern Rite of the Catholic Church. In the Latin, Western Rite, we have the tradition of celibacy. Although many in the world see celibacy as a curse, it really is a blessing and gift. As St. Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians, those who choose celibacy are able to give themselves to the Lord with an undivided heart (1 Cor 7:32-34). As a Catholic priest of the Latin Rite, I do not have to worry about taking care of a wife and/or children. I’m able to be free to serve God and my parish. For example, I personally make a Holy Hour every day in the church as well as celebrate Mass. I’m free to go and visit those who are homebound, in the nursing home, or in the hospital. Besides being a Pastor of a parish, I am also a chaplain at a nearby high school. I’m free to not only go there during the week during school hours, but also show up at the different sports games that the kids have. Yesterday, I had a very beautiful, moving experience that really brought home to me what a gift celibacy is. I concelebrated a Confirmation Mass at a parish that I previously was stationed at, where I specifically ran the youth ministry as well as being involved in the school. I was able to witness my “spiritual” children receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation, as well as spend a few hours with my brother priests, enjoying camaraderie and fraternity. So the next time someone brings up again the subject of Latin Rite Catholic priests being able to marry, please first ask us priests what we think, and you’ll find the right answer. God bless!
When I first attended the University of Rhode Island back in 1992, I joined three groups that were on campus: an animal rights group called SETA (Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), a pro-life group, and a group against racism. What I found very interesting was the fact that the majority of the students in SETA were for abortion. Even as a freshmen at URI that believed in God but was far from practicing the Catholic Faith that I was baptized into, I couldn’t for the life of me, understand how a person could be so pro-animal while at the same time being so anti-human. How could one stand up for animals and at the same time, be very vocal against the life of human beings in the wombs of their mothers. I actually left the animal rights group because of that hypocrisy. This hypocrisy continues in our current culture of death as over 3000 babies a day are killed in the wombs of their mothers through abortion, while any mistreatment of an animal in our society is treated with swift justice.
I say all of this as someone who truly loves animals. I have a dog, two gerbils, a gecko, and 10 fish. I take care of each of them as my “own” family. Yet, at the same time, I know that human beings were created in the Image and Likeness of God. Each of us have human dignity, and our lives are invaluable. We have eternal souls that Jesus died on the Cross for. As we come very quickly to Holy Week and prepare ourselves to enter into the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus, let us pray that our current culture of death that seems to value animal life on a higher level than human life, changes into a civilization of life and love where every human life is welcomed, loved, and treated with respect and reverence, regardless of size, race, or age. God bless!
“There is often a hesitancy to delve into the complexities of homosexuality because the topic is controversial in our society. No one, especially a priest, wants to be misunderstood as hating a group of people—and in our society when one speaks against an active homosexual lifestyle that person is often accused of speaking against a specific group of people, rather than against their actions. There is a special opportunity today for priests to represent the love of Christ and the Church to a group of people who feel as though they are out on the margin, unsure of where they stand—perhaps they are waiting for someone to extend a hand, and especially to reassure them of God’s love and mercy. No matter what someone brings to the questions surrounding homosexuality, one thing I’m sure of is that we all share a desire to alleviate suffering and to bring peace to the heart. Persons with same-sex attractions often suffer greatly in a great variety of ways. They carry a difficult and persistent cross. I know the Church has a great heart for them, understands their suffering, and wants to do something to ease it. I’ve come to love my work with Courage members, who are a remarkable and noble group of souls. I’ve learned that those who struggle with homosexuality are individuals with a wide variety of stories and experiences. But they hold in common the desire to love and be loved. Courage understands this human need and can offer the help, hope and charity of Jesus Christ.” The beautiful words above come from Fr. Check, the Director of the group called Courage, in an interview he gave to Zenit, on what advice he would give to his brother priests when it comes to dealing with the issue of homosexuality. Courage helps those with same sex attractions live chaste lives. From their website: “By developing an interior life of chastity, which is the universal call to all Christians, one can move beyond the confines of the homosexual label to a more complete identity in Christ”. (www.couragec.net)
My brothers and sisters, we live in a time where the homosexual AGENDA is being pushed down our throats. Whether it is the Grammy Awards, the Chevrolet commercials during the Olympics, or the “President” of the US pushing the gay agenda onto other countries, you can’t avoid being affected by it. Let us reach out to those who suffer with same sex attractions, rather than celebrate their suffering (which the gay agenda does), or condemn persons with these very real attractions (which goes against what Jesus teaches). Like Jesus, let us always love the sinner but hate the sin.
Merry Christmas and Happy New year! I’m finally writing another post after writing my last one back in November of 2013. We have less than a week left of the Christmas season and have begun the New Year of 2014. In the past three days, we have celebrated three amazing Saints that had an amazing impact on the Catholic Church in the United States. On Saturday, January 4th, it was the feast day of the first American born canonized Saint – St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821). She founded the first American religious community for women, the Sisters of Charity. She opened the first American parish school, as well as establishing the first American Catholic orphanage. She did all of this by her death at 46 years of age, and really all within 15 years because she didn’t become a Catholic until she was 31 years old. She was raised Episcopalian, married her husband William when she was 19, and had 5 children with him. When he was dying from tuberculosis 10 years into their Marriage, Elizabeth became acquainted with Catholicism while visiting Italy. After her husband died, she became a Catholic and credited her conversion to the true Faith to three basic points: belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, devotion to the Blessed Mother, and the conviction that the Catholic Church can be traced back to Jesus and the Apostles.
On Sunday, January 5th, although the Church celebrated the Epiphany, it was also the Feast of St. John Neumann (1811-1860). He was born in Bohemia, studied in Prague, and then came to the United States (NY) at 25 years old to study for the priesthood. After being ordained a priest, he then joined the Redemptorist religious community at 29 years old. St. John did missionary work among the German populations in Maryland, Virginia and Ohio, before being consecrated as the Bishop of Philadelphia at 41 years old. As the Bishop, he did amazing work for the parochial system in Philly, as well as being a very gifted preacher, spiritual writer, and man of great holiness, dying at the young age of 49 years old. He became the first American bishop to be beatified (October 13,1963), then canonized 14 years later in 1977.
Today, January 4th, 2014, was the feast day of St. Alfred Bessette (1845-1937), commonly known as “Br. Andre”. He was the 8th of 12 children, born to a French Canadian couple near Montreal. After both parents died, Alfred was adopted at 12 years old. He was very sickly as a child, uneducated, and grew up learning many trades at which he didn’t fair too well (shoemaker, baker, blacksmith). He visited the United States and worked in mills in Rhode Island and Connecticut. He visited his aunt’s house on Front St. in Woonsocket, RI, as well as visiting the Church of the Precious Blood in the same town. This fact interests me very much because I’m a Pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Woonsocket. It is so amazing to think that a living Saint visited this very area where I now live. After first being rejected from joining the religious community of the Congregation of the Holy Cross at the age of 25 years old because of his poor health, Alfred was then accepted and took the name of Br. Andre. Doing the simple tasks of doorkeeper, sacristan, laundry worker and messenger at Notre Dame College in Montreal, Br. Andre lived a very humble, holy, and faithful life dedicated to the Lord. People would come to him for spiritual advice as well for physical healing. They received both at his hands, which Br. Andre attributed to the intercession of St. Joseph. Unlike St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. John Neumann who died at 46 and 49 years of age respectively, Br. Andre lived to 92 years old.
Three Saints who lived or spent time in the United States – may they intercede for our country that we may get back to our spiritual roots of “one nation under God”, and may they intercede for each one of us, that we also become Saints like them!