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September 8th: The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

From the Roman Catholic Daily Missal, 1962:

At the time of Mary’s birth the whole world was plunged into darkness. The heathen nations were steeped in vice and pride. The Jews, too, had corrupted their ways and departed from God. Everywhere there was sin and gloom, no bright spot on the face of the earth. But when Marty was born a light arose amid the darkness: the dawn of the glorious day that was to usher in the Redeemer. So, too, the darkness of the sinner’s soul is dispersed by Mary’s holy influence. Where the love of her is born in the soul, all becomes full of light, and Jesus comes to make His habitation there. Mary, in the first hour of her life, brought more glory to God than all of the Saints of the Old Testament. In her were made perfect the obedience of Abraham, the chastity of Joseph, the patience of Job, the meekness of Moses, the prudence of Josue. It is because she is the model and pattern of these and all other virtues that she can communicate them to us.

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Parable of the Good Samaritan

In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, our Lord teaches us points critical to our salvation. First, we see clearly we are called to love our God with all our heart, all our soul, all our strength, and with all our mind. Further, we are to love our neighbor as our self. Jesus then goes on, in the Parable itself, to clearly define our neighbor: he is, quite simply, every other human being, known or unknown, friend or foe. Our fellow man is our neighbor and we are called to love him. Yet, what does “love him” mean?

We would do well to read this Parable carefully since our Lord makes some salient points regarding how we express our love for our fellow man. Clearly, we do not simply pass by like the priest and the Levite. Instead, we must act like the Good Samaritan. But what does he do? Does he see someone in need and call the government to demand they “do something?” Does he bemoan the fact there’s not a social program to “take care of” the injured man? Does he simply summon the “authorities” so they can “do something?” Does he go find others, and either through bribe or coercion, demand they “do something?” No!

The Good Samaritan shows us the way through his direct action in caring for his fellow man. Keep in mind, at the time Jesus spoke this story, Jews and Samaritans were enemies and did not associate with each other. Jesus teaches that despite this rivalry, the Good Samaritan himself comes to the aid of his fellow man. He does not push off that responsibility onto someone else or onto some sort of government social program.

Not only does the Good Samaritan reach out himself to aid his fellow man, at the Inn he reaches into his own pocket to pay for the injured man’s stay. He doesn’t demand the “rich” Inn Keeper pay out of his pocket for the injured man, nor demand the government pay for support of the injured man. No! Once again, we see our example: We, our selves, with our own time, talent, and treasure are called to care for our fellow man. Our Lord clearly expects us to jump in and “get our hands dirty,” not sit on the sidelines and wait for someone else to “do something.”

Reach out in love to your fellow man no matter where you might find him.

+JMJ

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The Good Samaritan

From the Roman Catholic Daily Missal, 1962:

We have been initiated into spiritual life by the Sacrament of Baptism, and strengthened – perfected – by the Sacrament of Confirmation. The feast of Pentecost has celebrated the efficaciousness of Baptism and Confirmation: the graces and fruits given by the Holy Ghost. The Church recalls in the Liturgy today the duty of charity which derives from them.

Epistle – II Cor. 3:4-9

The law of our Lord Jesus Christ is the perfect development of the Law of Moses. Let us not follow a pharisaical interpretation of the law which reduces our religious duties to a few outward practices. “The letter killeth, the spirit quickeneth.”

Brethren: Such confidence we have through Christ towards God. Not that we are sufficient to think any thing of ourselves, as of ourselves: but our sufficiency is from God. Who also hath made us fit ministers of the new testament, not in the letter, but in the spirit. For the letter killeth, but the spirit quickeneth. Now if the ministration of death, engraven with letters upon stones, was glorious; so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses, for the glory of his countenance, which is made void: how shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather in glory? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more the ministration of justice aboundeth in glory.

Gospel – Lk. 10:23-37

The parable of the good Samaritan shows us that our neighbor is every man, known or unknown, friend or enemy, to whom we are united by the bonds of Christian charity.

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: “Blessed are the eyes that see the things which you see. For I say to you that many prophets and kings have desired to see the things that you see, and have not seen them; and to hear the things that you hear, and have not heard them.” And behold a certain lawyer stood up, tempting Him, and saying, “Master, what must I do to possess eternal life?” But He said to him: “What is written in the law? How readest thou?” He answering, said: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul and with all thy strength and with all thy mind: and thy neighbor as thyself.” And He said to him: “Thou hast answered right; this do, and thou shalt live.” But he willing to justify himself, said to Jesus: “And who is my neighbor?” And Jesus answering, said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among robbers, who also stripped him, and having wounded him went away, leaving him half dead. And it chanced that a certain priest went down the same way and seeing him, passed by. In like manner also a Levite, when he was near the place and saw him, passed by. But a certain Samaritan being on his journey, came near him; and seeing him, was moved with compassion. And going up to him, bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine and setting him upon his own beast, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two pence, and gave to the host, and said: ‘Take care of him; and whatsoever thou shalt spend over and above, I, at my return, will repay thee.’ Which of these three, in thy opinion, was neighbor to him that fell among the robbers?” But he said: “He that shewed mercy to him.” And Jesus said to him: “Go, and do thou in like manner.”

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St Nicholas of Tolentino

September – Month of Our Lady of Sorrows

Sunday, September 4 – 12th Sunday After Pentecost (Traditional) / 23nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (New)

St. Rosalia (1166), Virgin, Patroness of Palermo, Sicily (Historical)

St. Rose of Viterbo (1252), Virgin (Historical)

St. Marinus (4th Century), Hermit (Historical)

Monday, September 5

St. Laurence Justinian (1455), Bishop, First Patriarch of Venice (Traditional)

St. Bertin (698), Abbot of Saint-Bertin (Historical)

Tuesday, September 6

Blessed Bertrand of Garrigues (13th Century), Priest (Historical)

St. Eleutherius (585), Religious (Historical)

Wednesday, September 7

St. Regina (286), Virgin, Martyr, Patroness of Poverty (Historical)

St. Cloud (560), Priest, Hermit (Historical)

Thursday, September 8 – Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary (c. 15 BC) (Traditional / New)

St. Adrian (304), Martyr (Traditional)

St. Corbinian (Corbin) (725), Bishop (Historical)

Friday, September 9 – Obligatory Day of Abstinence

St. Peter Claver (1654), Priest, Jesuit, “Apostle of the Negroes” (Traditional – Some Places / New)

St. Gorgonius (303), Martyr (Traditional)

Saturday, September 10

St. Nicholas of Tolentino (1306), Priest, Religious, Patron of Mariners (Traditional)

St. Pulcheria (453), Virgin, Empress (Historical)

Bls. Apollinaris Franco, Charles Spinola, and Companions (1622), 205 Martyrs of Japan (Historical – Some Places)

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Light of the World

I’m very saddened, but unfortunately not surprised, to see the liberal media bandwagon spinning and twisting the Pope’s comments on condoms.  The reality is the Church continues to rightfully teach that the use of artificial contraception in any form is dangerous due to the “de-humanizing” such practices have on human sexuality – and by extension the human person.  Despite the “spin” on the Pope’s comments by the liberal media and progressive liberal “Catholics,” nothing has changed in Church teaching.  Neither the Church, nor the Pope, approves the use of condoms or other artificial conception in any case.

First, one must understand, as many do not, that the Pope is allowed to express personal opinion on any matter he wishes – just as we all have that right.  Despite what some think, Catholicism does not hold that whatever the Pope says is automatically “official” teaching of the Church.  The Doctrine of Papal Infallibility only applies to teachings related to faith and morals, and even then, it must be specifically and clearly invoked.  Most people don’t know that the popes have very, very rarely exercised this authority, despite their voluminous writings from audiences, homilies, letters, etc.  To make an infallible statement on the teachings of Jesus Christ is a very serious process and never something done in mere casual conversation with a reporter.  In this situation, namely an extended interview with a reporter, the Pope’s comments are personal opinion, not “official” Church teaching.  Even so, again despite the “spin” put on his words, what the Pope said is consistent with Church teaching and actually shows tremendous charity on his part.

Second, most people, including many Catholics, completely fail to understand Church teaching on human sexuality.  Briefly, the Church teaches that since God is infinite love and created everything out of His infinite love, all His creation is good.   It is actually a very old heresy going back to the early days of Christianity to claim the body and sex are somehow “bad” or inherently evil.  We must also understand God created not because He had to create, but because He wanted to create out of His free will and His infinite love – which again reinforces the very goodness of His creation.

When it comes to humans, not only are we part of the goodness of God’s creation, we are even more special since we are created in His image.  How are we taught to treat gifts of great value, like a special family heirloom?  We’re taught to treat it with great care as a sign of respect to the giver of that gift – we honor the person by cherishing the gift he or she gave us.  Our humanity, which includes our sexuality, is the greatest gift we can ever receive, for it is only because of that gift that we exist.  Therefore if we truly desire to love, honor and serve the Lord, we must treat His gift, our humanity, with the absolute greatest respect.  Consequently, we must refrain from doing things which “dehumanizes” or goes against the nature of humanity – which includes things like promiscuous sex, unmarried sex, engaging in homosexual acts, abortion, artificial means to prevent the gift of human life and so forth.  All these things work to destroy our human nature – we need only look to today’s society for abundant proof of this fact.

Pope Benedict XVI, as anyone who reads his writings comes to know, is a very intelligent, scholarly and intellectual person.  While on one hand, this is very good as one can gain very deep insights by reading his work, on the other hand his is not writing which lends itself to the short sound-bites so many rely on as their sole source of information today.  As we see in this situation, one comment in a book-length interview, before the book is even released, is taken out of context and twisted to mean something else.  A society fed on nothing but sound-bites eats it up and never bothers to discover the truth for themselves.

All the headlines completely ignore this line from the Pope’s comments: “[The Church] does not regard it [use of condoms] as a real or moral solution.”  Saying it’s not “a real or moral” solution means it is not the right choice, not an “acceptable” choice and not a moral choice – in other words, it is bad and immoral.  If one bothers to read the Pope in context, he makes it clear up front that he does not approve of condom use by anyone.

However, and here’s where the charity I mentioned comes into play, the Pope goes on to say that if someone infected with a STD uses a condom to prevent disease transmission that fact (again, while not the right choice or moral choice) might indicate the beginning of a proper understanding of human sexuality in that person.  He’s really saying the first step to fixing your problem is the recognition you have a problem in the first place.  If we never recognize we have a problem, especially a moral problem, we can never begin taking steps to resolve that problem.  Only if we begin taking personal responsibility for our actions can we begin moving into the light of understanding and Truth.

Unfortunately, in all the media “spin,” we completely fail to grasp the Pope’s real message, a message applicable to all of us.  For far from being an affirmation of condom use, the Pope’s message is actually an affirmation of hope.  The hope we should all share as Christians that even the greatest sinner will eventually recognize his sins, open his heart to God, beg forgiveness and redemption and thereby gain entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.  That is the Pope’s real message.  The headlines should actually proclaim:

“Pope says Hope of Redemption Possible for even the Greatest of Sinners”

Here are some links which further expound on the Pope’s true message:

http://insightscoop.typepad.com/2004/2010/11/excerpt-pope-benedict-xvi-discusses-condoms-and-the-spread-of-hiv.html

http://insightscoop.typepad.com/2004/2010/11/what-does-the-holy-father-really-say-about-condoms-in-the-new-book-janet-e-smith.html

http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2010/11/the_pope_condoms_and_confusion.html

http://www.jimmyakin.org/2010/11/new-developments-on-the-pope-and-condoms.html

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The Sacraments of Baptism, Holy Eucharist, and Penance are arguably the three most important Sacraments in the life of the Church.  Without these three Sacraments, according to Jesus, it’s impossible to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Baptism makes us adopted children of God and ushers us into His family.  The Sacrament of Penance removes the stain of sin, thereby allowing us to die in a state of grace worthy of a life in heaven. The Sacrament of Holy Eucharist gives us new life through the Body and Blood of Christ. Yet, we cannot approach the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist if we are in a state of sin; in sin we quite literally cut ourselves off from the Body of Christ. To find life in Christ, we simply must have ready access to the Sacrament of Penance.

Jesus is quite clear – if we die in a state of mortal sin, we’re out, all the way out.  Once we depart this life, there are no “second chances.”  There is no do-over.  We die and our soul receives final, eternal judgment.  To this, consider as well how easy it is for one to fall into mortal sin in today’s “anything goes” secular society which routinely promotes absolute perversion as “good.”  Perhaps more than any other time in history, temptation abounds.

While it’s not wise since it generally arises from being over-scrupulous, there is no theological barrier of which I’m aware that would prevent someone who doesn’t regularly partake in the Eucharist (but attends Mass) from gaining admission into Heaven (provided of course the person satisfies the Precepts of the Church which includes receiving the Eucharist at least once a year during Easter).  Yet, we very clearly risk non-admission into the Kingdom of Heaven by forgoing the Sacrament of Penance – not to mention the additional sinfulness of receiving the Eucharist while in a state of sin, especially mortal sin.

Give all this, why is Sacrament of Penance the least available and least promoted of the Sacraments?  If the parishioners are lucky, the average “Catholic” church today offers the Sacrament of Penance for perhaps thirty minutes in the middle of a Saturday afternoon.  Oh, sure, these churches often claim it’s available anytime – by advance appointment only, please.

Multiple “performances” of the liturgy are available all weekend with morning, matinee and evening shows all designed to work around your busy schedule – no advance reservation required, walk-ins welcome.  If you’re lucky, along with an ad-libbing MC (formerly known as a priest), in some cases, they might even throw in some clowns or “liturgical dances” for your “theological” entertainment.  But need someone to hear your confession?  Not likely.  Besides, once you do get in for your face-to-face wrap session (after all, Confessionals with partitions are so pre-Vatican II) with Father Friendly, he’ll probably tell you your sins aren’t really considered sins anymore, so don’t worry, be happy!

Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.

These churches often defend this lack of access to the Sacrament of Penance by claiming not many people show up on Saturday anyways, so it’d be a waste of time to offer it more often.  The majority of Catholics today suffer under pitiful “catechesis” inspired by the false “Spirit of Vatican II” – a “spirit” completely unsupported by the actual documents of Vatican II.  The average pew sitter is woefully misinformed about the Truths of the Faith.  Is it any wonder they’re not showing up at the confessional – especially when it’s in the middle of Saturday afternoon, which is the one day most families actually get some time in today’s hectic world to spend time together?  Frankly, I’m surprised anyone shows up at all.

However, I believe the movie line applies here, “Build it and they will come.”  Offer the Sacrament of Penance on a regular, accessible basis, teach the faithful about its importance and they will come, for if they truly desire salvation and unity with the Lord, they must come.

Every Mass offered by priests of SSPX and FSSP, to give but two examples, offer the Sacrament of Penance before the Mass – in addition to offering it at other times as well.  Quite a novel concept – the faithful show up at the church, participate in the Sacrament of Penance and then actively participate in the Mass with clean souls!  The Sacrament of Penance is offered on a regular, accessible basis and all the faithful participate.  Why is this process so difficult for regular “Catholic” parishes (or “communities” or “worship spaces” or whatever they’re calling themselves today) to implement? [Note: SSPX is mentioned here as an example to show that even a group with questionable standing in the Church at least understands the great importance of access to the Sacrament of Penance.]

Why, fathers and bishops, do so many of you insist on denying, or at least making very inconvenient, access to the Sacrament of Penance?  Sacred Scripture teaches that you are responsible for the souls of the faithful.  With responsibility comes accountability: You will be held to a higher standard than the un-ordained laity.  Stand up and follow many of your Holy Brethren by breathing new life into the Sacrament of Penance and leading the faithful into active participation in this live-saving and life-giving gift of God.

Ave Maria!

+JMJ

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The Consuming Fire

The Consuming Fire: A Christian Guide to the Old Testament.  By Michael W. Duggan.  Our Sunday Visitor, 2010.  686 pages, softcover.  $29.95

Reviewed by Steven Schultz, MA

I fear far too many Catholics operate under the mistaken assumption that the New Testament somehow replaced the Old Testament, or at least rendered it to relative unimportance.  This unfortunate notion causes many of us to give the Old Testament nothing more than a passing glance.  Not only is this notion unfortunate, it’s downright dangerous to our salvation.

The New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old Testament.  Therefore in order to truly understand the New Testament, we must truly understand the Old Testament.  Reading the New Testament, we should be struck by the fact of how thoroughly everyone – Jesus, the Apostles, their fellow Jews – knew the Old Testament (or for them, the Scriptures).  Keep in mind, the Apostles were simple working people, yet they all intimately knew the Old Testament.  Why should we hold ourselves to any lesser standard?

Beyond this, the Old Testament is fundamental to our spiritual perfection as Christians and to our salvation.  We are called to live in Christ – to transform ourselves in Christ.  St. Irenaeus terms the process “recapitulation” in Christ.  Our Lord fulfilled and perfected the Old Testament. Therefore, in order to recapitulate ourselves in Christ, we too must live through His perfection of the Old Testament.  Like the Apostles, we too must know and understand the Old Testament to truly and fully live in Christ in light of the New Testament.

Since many of us have “lost touch” with the Old Testament, reading it can prove an intimidating task.  However, in The Consuming Fire, Michael Duggan provides us a great aid in taming this daunting process.  Dr. Duggan is an Associate Professor of Theology and Religious Studies and the inaugural holder of the CWL Chair for Catholic Studies at St. Mary’s University College in Calgary, Alberta.

The first edition of The Consuming Fire was released by Ignatius Press in 1991.  It has long since gone out of print.  This near edition, appearing nearly twenty years later, is thoroughly revised and updated.  Significant Biblical scholarship has added greatly to our knowledge of the Old Testament since 1991.  Dr. Duggan incorporates this latest scholarship into the new version of The Consuming Fire.

Dr. Duggan sets the stage for our journey by providing introductory chapters on the development of the Old Testament, in particular the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) compared to the Septuagint (the Greek Bible), as well as background on the people, places and history of Old Testament times.  He then takes us through every book of the Old Testament, explaining and relating them not only to the other Old Testament books, but to the New Testament as well.  Each chapter concludes with suggestions for meditative reading along with an outline of the book(s) covered in that chapter.

I have only minor criticisms of this book.  First, I find the section of color maps to be of poor quality.  According to the copyright information, the maps apparently come from a 2005 do-it-yourself software program and they look like it.  Quality maps would have greatly enhanced this solid work.  Also, I take issue with the author’s use of “Old Covenant” and “New Covenant” instead of “Old Testament” and “New Testament,” along with his use of “BCE” (Before Common Era) and “CE” (Common Era) instead of “BC” and “AD.”  He claims to do so out of “respect” and an attempt not to “offend” others.  Frankly, I find this complete silliness.

The book is directed towards Catholics.  The terms cited above are standard, traditional Catholic terms.  I don’t expect other religions to alter their terms in order to not “offend” me.  I’m strong enough in my faith that, for example, hearing a Jewish person refer to the Torah or a Muslim talk about the Qur’an doesn’t shake my belief in Jesus as Messiah.

Instead of watering down our terms as a way of being “politically correct,” I believe much more profitable discussion and interchange of ideas takes place when we’re honest about our fundamental beliefs.  I’ve enjoyed extremely profitable discussions with people of radically different belief systems.  We never felt the need to resort to “politically correct” silliness in order to avoid “offending” and thereby appear “tolerant.”

Other than these relatively minor criticisms, I find The Consuming Fire an excellent and profitable book.  Through it, we can come to know more fully the Old Testament and thereby come to know more fully the New Testament and our obligations in Jesus as Christians.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on The Consuming Fire and be sure to check out their great selection of baptism gifts while you are there.

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