Fr Robert Barron continues to be one of my favorite preachers. Here he gives an excellent explanation of The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
Faith is born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love, a love which precedes us and upon which we can lean for security and for building our lives. Transformed by this love, we gain fresh vision, new eyes to see; we realize that it contains a great promise of fulfillment, and that a vision of the future opens up before us. Faith, received from God as a supernatural gift, becomes a light for our way, guiding our journey through time. On the one hand, it is a light coming from the past, the light of the foundational memory of the life of Jesus which revealed his perfectly trustworthy love, a love capable of triumphing over death. Yet since Christ has risen and draws us beyond death, faith is also a light coming from the future and opening before us vast horizons which guide us beyond our isolated selves towards the breadth of communion. We come to see that faith does not dwell in shadow and gloom; it is a light for our darkness.
From his first encyclical, Lumen Fidei, paragraph 4.
As the Year of Faith continues, I thought it wise to study and reflect on Francis’ first encyclical specially geared to teach on faith. This encyclical letter was much anticipated and begun by Benedict XVI, and was subsequently completed and released under Francis. It was released at the end of June, just in time for my summer vacation. But I’m back! And happy to share a few quotes from it — the “greatest hits” imho — that I find there.
Today, at my column at Patheos, I begin a series reflecting on each of the parts of this wise and easy-to-digest catechesis on faith. As you might expect, the document is filled with scripture. I give you a snippet below of a particular verse that moved me…
One verse from Scripture cited in Lumen Fidei struck me with unusual power, to see it with new eyes.
On the eve of his passion, Jesus assured Peter: “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail (Lk 22: 32).”
What a momentous statement.
So often Christians think about the action of our prayers being made to God. Yet in this instance, the Lord and the Light of the World, offers an intentional and personal prayer for an arrogant and blundering fisherman in Peter. The gospels have numerous instances of Jesus at prayer. But in this short verse we get a vision of God who prays for us! Jesus has each of us in mind before we utter a word or thought of the heart.
In this clear intercession – I have prayed for you – Jesus pins hope on Peter’s faith, but it is not fainthearted. Jesus backs it with his power and light. Jesus entrusts this faith, by turn, on the followers to come after Peter, as they too will be transformed by the light of faith.
I now imagine this word of God applying to me. I see Jesus praying for my faith, the virtue infused at my baptism. To assist me in not failing, Jesus has given me brothers and sisters in the church, along with the graces of the sacraments, to insure it. This, indeed, is the faith born of encounter with Jesus: it brightens one’s path, and opens “vast horizons” that lead “beyond our isolated selves towards the breadth of communion.” It is a faith that “enriches life in all its dimensions (LF, par 6.)”
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Photos: Top cover photo: me and a cardboard cut-out of Francis at Catholic Marketing Network, near the Ignatius Press booth.
Mid text: Screen shot from news.va
With the hoopla that the mainstream media is making, and the Catholic blogosphere, in the last two days about the post-Rio press conference Pope Francis held aboard his flight home, you might have missed that there were a whole bunch of great quotes that the Pope gave to the world — catechetically speaking — and to the world’s youth. Here are a few highlights from me from three homilies he gave along the way.
When the Church looks for Jesus, she always knocks at his Mother’s door and asks: “Show us Jesus”. It is from Mary that the Church learns true discipleship. That is why the Church always goes out on mission in the footsteps of Mary.
I would like to speak of three simple attitudes: hopefulness, openness to being surprised by God, and living in joy.
[On Hopefulness:] I would like to say forcefully: Always know in your heart that God is by your side; he never abandons you! Let us never lose hope! Let us never allow it to die in our hearts! [E]vil, is present in our history, but it does not have the upper hand. The one with the upper hand is God, and God is our hope!
[On being open to being surprised by God:] Anyone who is a man or a woman of hope – the great hope which faith gives us – knows that even in the midst of difficulties God acts and he surprises us. The history of this Shrine is a good example: three fishermen, after a day of catching no fish, found something unexpected in the waters of the Parnaíba River: an image of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. Whoever would have thought that the site of a fruitless fishing expedition would become the place where all Brazilians can feel that they are children of one Mother? God always surprises us, like the new wine in the Gospel we have just heard. God always saves the best for us. But he asks us to let ourselves be surprised by his love, to accept his surprises. Let us trust God! Cut off from him, the wine of joy, the wine of hope, runs out. If we draw near to him, if we stay with him, what seems to be cold water, difficulty, sin, is changed into the new wine of friendship with him.
[On living in joy: [W]e cannot fail to be witnesses of this joy. Christians are joyful, they are never gloomy. God is at our side. We have a Mother who always intercedes for the life of her children, for us, as Queen Esther did in the first reading (cf Est 5:3). Jesus has shown us that the face of God is that of a loving Father. Sin and death have been defeated. Christians cannot be pessimists! They do not look like someone in constant mourning. If we are truly in love with Christ and if we sense how much he loves us, our heart will “light up” with a joy that spreads to everyone around us.
BTW, here’s a cool website showing interactive views of the Basilica of Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil.
From the Homily at Eucharistic prayer vigil:
…in silence, let us all look into our hearts and each one of us tell Jesus that we want to receive the seed of his Word. Say to him: Jesus, look upon the stones, the thorns, and the weeds that I have, but look also upon this small piece of ground that I offer to you so that the seed may enter my heart. In silence, let us allow the seed of Jesus to enter our hearts. Remember this moment. Everyone knows the seed that has been received. Allow it to grow, and God will nurture it.
From the Homily from the closing Mass at WYD:
“Go and make disciples of all nations”. With these words, Jesus is speaking to each one of us, saying: “It was wonderful to take part in World Youth Day, to live the faith together with young people from the four corners of the earth, but now you must go, now you must pass on this experience to others.” Jesus is calling you to be a disciple with a mission! Today, in the light of the word of God that we have heard, what is the Lord saying to us? Three simple ideas: Go, do not be afraid, and serve.
[On "Go":] Jesus first came into our midst and gave us, not a part of himself, but the whole of himself, he gave his life in order to save us and to show us the love and mercy of God. Jesus does not treat us as slaves, but as free men, as friends, as brothers and sisters; and he not only sends us, he accompanies us, he is always beside us in our mission of love.
Where does Jesus send us? There are no borders, no limits: he sends us to everyone. The Gospel is for everyone, not just for some. It is not only for those who seem closer to us, more receptive, more welcoming. It is for everyone. Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent. The Lord seeks all, he wants everyone to feel the warmth of his mercy and his love.
[On "do not be afraid":] Some people might think: “I have no particular preparation, how can I go and proclaim the Gospel?” My dear friend, your fear is not so very different from that of Jeremiah, a young man like you, when he was called by God to be a prophet. We have just heard his words: “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth”. God says the same thing to you as he said to Jeremiah: “Be not afraid … for I am with you to deliver you” (Jer 1:7,8). He is with us!
“Do not be afraid!” When we go to proclaim Christ, it is he himself who goes before us and guides us. When he sent his disciples on mission, he promised: “I am with you always” (Mt 28:20). And this is also true for us! Jesus does not leave us alone, he never leaves you alone! He always accompanies you.
And then, Jesus did not say: “One of you go”, but “All of you go”: we are sent together. Dear young friends, be aware of the companionship of the whole Church and also the communion of the saints on this mission. When we face challenges together, then we are strong, we discover resources we did not know we had. Jesus did not call the Apostles to live in isolation, he called them to form a group, a community.
[On serve:] The opening words of the psalm that we proclaimed are: “Sing to the Lord a new song” (Psalm 95:1). What is this new song? It does not consist of words, it is not a melody, it is the song of your life, it is allowing our life to be identified with that of Jesus, it is sharing his sentiments, his thoughts, his actions. And the life of Jesus is a life for others. It is a life of service.
A great re-cap with Flickr account photos over at News.VA as well as text and video.
For coverage with a local flair, look at the Rio photos and comments on the Archdiocese of Boston Facebook page.
There’s a timely reminder in the Catechism of the Catholic Church for this “time” in the liturgical calendar – smack dab between Pentecost and Ordinary Time. And it is this: Pentecost should remind us of our Confirmation!
CCC 1302 states:
It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost.
I grew up in a Catholic home and went to a parochial grade school. It was taken for granted that I would be confirmed. But, despite its importance, Confirmation being a sacrament and all, I was slow to understand its significance in my life. Hindsight, so the saying goes, is 20/20.
If I am perfectly honest, as I look back on my Confirmation at the age of 12, I can say that that I was formed in one thing: being able to stand up for the faith. Not that I completely knew what my faith taught, mind you, but I knew I was responsible to stand up for it. I didn’t question it. I was immature, and I likened my ideas about Confirmation to a kind of “patriotism”… I was a Catholic and it was my honor to live by and defend the laws of the Church, just like I was an American pledging allegiance to the flag.
Actually, my feelings about the sacrament were almost irrelevant. Yet, despite how I would “feel” about my Confirmation, the “effects” of the Sacrament are still the same… the Holy Spirit was poured out upon me. The Sacrament “took” as long as I was properly prepared for it, and the Bishop acted appropriately as to the Rite.
I just did not appreciate my Confirmation until later.
Two years following my Confirmation, the Lord led me to a youth prayer group. Actually, the Lord led my mother to lead me to a prayer group. It seems they needed a musician to help lead the worship, and I had just enough guitar ego in me to oblige. But despite my less-than-noble reasons for serving, that prayer group was where I really started to “live it” – meaning that my faith became “not for Sundays only.”
As I look back, I began a wonderful journey of faith in my teen years, thanks to the grace of God. The grace of Confirmation began to kick in. Little did I know that I was beginning to cooperate with that grace.
CCC 1303 states that our Confirmation brings about five effects, the first of which is that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit increases and deepens our baptismal grace. Confirmation “roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry, “Abba! Father!””
When I was a teenager, I began to understand my identity as a baptized Catholic was that of a child of God. That’s what divine filiation is—to be made part of God’s family.
St. Paul writes in Romans 8:14-17:
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Secondly, it follows that CCC 1303 states that Confirmation “unites us more firmly to Christ.” To my tender teenage heart, this was the idea of falling in love with Christ. As if I could really make a return to Christ for all he had done for me. But, truly, that unity with Christ was and is far more dependent on Christ’s gift to me, than my gift to him. And yet, he loves me all the same!
God is determined to give mere mortals the means to live for him. Therefore, we see the third effect of Confirmation being that it “increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us.” The more open we are to the Holy Spirit, the more we can respond to Christ. In other words, our moral life is sustained by the Holy Spirit’s gifts that make us docile and teachable and obedient to God’s will. (Cf. CCC 1830.)
CCC 1303 teaches that Confirmation delivers a fourth effect: it “renders our bond with the Church more perfect”. The Bishop, who administers the Rite of Confirmation, shows us that bond. Where the Bishop is, there the Church is, to paraphrase St. Ignatius of Antioch in the second century. His holy office is our apostolic witness, our tie to the foundations of our faith dating back past Ignatius to the time of Christ and his apostles. As Jesus sent his apostles, so he sends us… and we are to be sent in unity with the Body of Christ, which is the Church.
Not only that, CCC 1303 continues, Confirmation gives us “a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross. This is the Truth that we are called to stand up for and defend, and we already have been given the grace to do it. This is the special charism of Confirmation.
And what is it that we have truly received? In CCC 1303, St. Ambrose, a Doctor of the Church from the fourth century, spells out the fifth and most challenging effect of our Confirmation:
Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear in God’s presence.
Guard what you have received. God the Father has marked you with his sign; Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has placed his pledge, the Spirit, in your hearts.
As confirmed Catholics, there is no shirking of the duties and responsibilities inherent in this calling. There may be ignoring of it, and, even a rejecting of it. But we cannot remove this Confirmation that is upon us, once it is imposed.
So much so, that that CCC 1304 reminds us:
Like Baptism which it completes, Confirmation is given only once, for it too imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual mark, the “character,” which is the sign that Jesus Christ has marked a Christian with the seal of his Spirit by clothing him with power from on high so that he may be his witness.
Did that last line sound familiar? These were some of the parting words of Jesus to his disciples, just prior to his Ascension into heaven.
You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high.
And you remember what that Power was now, don’t you? The Holy Spirit at Pentecost!
©2009 Patricia W. Gohn
:: This post originally appeared at Catholic Exchange.
Photo Credit: Pat Gohn, Rome, 2011.
It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament. The Church Fathers strongly affirmed the faith of the Church in the efficacy of the Word of Christ and of the action of the Holy Spirit to bring about this conversion. Thus St. John Chrysostom declares:
- It is not man that causes the things offered to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but he who was crucified for us, Christ himself. The priest, in the role of Christ, pronounces these words, but their power and grace are God’s. This is my body, he says. This word transforms the things offered.
And St. Ambrose says about this conversion:
- Be convinced that this is not what nature has formed, but what the blessing has consecrated. The power of the blessing prevails over that of nature, because by the blessing nature itself is changed. . . . Could not Christ’s word, which can make from nothing what did not exist, change existing things into what they were not before? It is no less a feat to give things their original nature than to change their nature.
- ~Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1375.
For the Year of Faith, longtime blogger Melanie Bettinelli, and friend of the Among Women podcast, is hosting a series of guest posts from bloggers around blogdom on the subject of the Creed. Your truly was happily assigned the gig for “The Father Almighty”. Here’s a snippet of my contribution…
On the shelf above my kitchen sink – the sink being the place where I do a fair amount of thinking and praying – I have a little sign with this message:
Telling God how big your problems are? Tell your problems how big God is!
That little sign reminds me of the Creed and the foundations of my trust in God.
When we pray the words, “I believe in one God, the Father almighty,” we declare the bigness of God – his omnipotence. Those same words profess a Father who loves us, as well as acknowledging our identity as beloved daughters and sons.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), paragraph 278, offers a compelling question:
If we don’t believe that God’s love is almighty, how can we believe that the Father could create us, the Son redeem us, and the Holy Spirit sanctify us?
Pondering this challenges me, and makes me think deeply. It might as well have asked me: “How big is your God?” Or maybe, “How small is your faith?” But even if I don’t have it all figured out, I can lean on this much… I can trust that God is bigger than my misunderstandings and limitations.
God has many incredible attributes, but only God’s omnipotence as “Almighty” is named in the Creed. God Almighty’s power is universal. God rules everything and can do everything. As master of the universe and the Lord of history his will is limitless. “Father almighty” states God’s infinite power as it admits a profound fatherly love for us—with all the tender affection and care a Father bestows upon his children, and so much more.
Physician-Assisted Suicide is Something we can live without! Massachusetts: This is a matter of life and death!
Election Day brings the Presidential election, but for folks in Massachusetts, our election on November 6 is, truly, a matter of life and death. On the ballot in Massachusetts, is Question 2 in support of physician-assisted suicide. Here’s the ballot question, and here’s several groups opposing this proposed law:
- Committee Against Physician Assisted Suicide
- Suicide is Always a Tragedy
- A Town Hall held on Catholic TV on this subject:
- Cardinal Sean O’Malley is tweeting about this every day before the election.
- Articles in The Pilot denouncing physician-assisted suicide:
The Slippery Slope of Physician-Assisted Suicide by Cardinal Sean O’Malley
The Catholic Church supports life from conception until natural death. This proposed law in Massachusetts is against our pro-life ethics. It undermines our human dignity and it reduces us to being evaluated in terms of our productivity, our health, our usefulness, or our so-called “quality” of life. All life is sacred and we must protect it.
Even if you are not a resident in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, you should be paying attention to this issue… as this assisted suicide initiative will be promoted in other states soon. So get yourself educated on the arguments against it and the Catholic perspectives that can help shape the arguments.
At the risk of sounding punny, physician-assisted suicide is something we can live without. Let’s stand for life!