All Saints

Today is the Feast of All Saints.  It’s a day when we remember the hundreds of saints who don’t have their own feast day.  But our non-Catholic friends might ask us, “Why do Catholics pray to the saints. Only God can answer prayers.”

True enough.  Only God can answer our prayers.  The fact is that we don’t pray to the saints.  We ask the saints to pray for us. The “litany of the saints” that we say on special occasions concludes with the words “pray for us.”  No Catholic, at least no Catholic who understand his or her faith, ever prays to a saint.

 

So, what’s the deal?  First of all, we believe that the saints are in heaven.  They are in God’s presence. Second, we believe that saints have a special connection to us either through our location, through our occupation, through our station in life, or in some other way.  When Catholics are confirmed, we take the name of a saint. In my case, it’s Saint Patrick.  When I pray, I ask Patrick to pray for me.  Since I’ve adopted him as my personal patron, I believe that he will intercede for me.  I think of him as a friend who lives in heaven.

 

Periodically the Church will canonize a new saint.  It’s important to remember that the Church isn’t making that person a saint.  She’s just recognizing the person’s holiness. Bernadette didn’t become a saint because Pope Pius said so.  All he did was recognize Bernadette’s holy life and add her to the list.

 

I live in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis.  Saint Louis IX is the patron of the Archdiocese.  I believe that he takes a special interest in those of us who live in his namesake city.  Saint Rose Phillipine Du Chesne and Saint Vincent De Paul are also patrons of our Archdiocese.

The Church has designated certain saints as patrons of vocations and occupations.  Saint Stephen, the first deacon, is the patron of deacons, along with Saint Lawrence, and Saint Francis of Assissi.  All three were deacons.  According to saints.sqpn.com, there are 23 saints who were deacons, and that doesn’t include the three that I’ve listed.

Maybe you, or someone you love has cancer.  Saints.sqpn.com lists six patrons saints for you to choose from.  On his feast day, February 3, we pray to Saint Blaise, patron of diseases of the throat.  Here’s a good example of praying through a saint.  When the congregation present themselves for the blessing, the deacon or priest lays crossed candles around the neck and prays,”Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr, may you be free from all diseases of the throat and every other illness.” The key word here is “intercession”.  We’re not praying to Saint Blaise. We’re asking him to pray for us.

 

Maybe you’re a nurse.  You have eight patrons.  Soldiers, you have sixteen.  Even lawyers have eleven patron saints.  The list goes on and on.  The bottom line is that none of these folks can answer your prayers, but they can put in a good word for you.

Many of our protestant brothers and sisters think it’s scandalous that we try to sneak up on God through this spiritual back door.  But the same people will ask you or me to pray for them.

 

When I had my brain surgery in March, the members of my son’s Baptist church in Alabama prayed for me.  It’s the same thing. Remember the parable of the persistent widow? She kept coming back over and over again until the judge relented.  Likewise, I can ask God to bless my ministry. Or, I can flood heaven with prayers from my patron saints, my friends, and my family. This takes nothing from God.  It just moves the process along. I can ask for something 100 times, or I can ask ten people (living and dead) to pray for me ten times. The result is the same.

 

Of course, only God answers prayers.  To think otherwise is not Christian. But if you have friends who have His ear, it doesn’t hurt if they put in a good word for you.

Saints of God, pray for us.

 

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God Bless America!

I was talking to a friend the other day.  She told me she has started a blog.  I gave her some encouragement and offered to help any way I can.  Then I came home and looked at this blog and realized that I haven’t posted since Memorial Day!  Over a month ago!  If I were an aspiring blogger I would take Deacon Mike’s advice and toss it in the trash can.  I’m embarrassed.

I could make all kinds of excuses for my inactivity but I won’t.  I know better.  This coming November, this blog will be ten years old.  I actually started blogging for my former employer in April 2006, more than twelve years ago.  I think I know how to blog.  I even know how to blog on a regular basis because in my capacity as “professional blogger” I was expected to do it as part of my job.  So, what happened?

Life happened.  Other things seemed to always get in the way.  Believe it or not, these beautiful words of wisdom don’t just flow magically from my fingers.  A good post takes time.  Sometimes a lot of time.

Then there are those fingers themselves.  I’ve developed a neurological condition called Essential Tremor, that causes my hands to shake.  It’s hereditary.  My mom had it too.  Aside from being very aggravating, it makes it very hard to type (or eat).  If I’m going to continue, and I am, I’m going to look into voice recognition software to make this less of a chore.  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Declaration_Engrav_Pg1of1_doctored_0.jpgBut, as I often do, I digress.  Today is America’s birthday.  242 years ago a brave group of colonists thumbed their noses at King George and declared our independence.  In doing so, they risked everything.  If this experiment had failed they would have lost their families, their homes, and their lives.

Those original Americans had settled along the East Coast.  The thirteen colonies all bordered the Atlantic Ocean.  There’s no way those Founding Fathers could have imagined the vast land we know today as the United States of America.  They had no way of knowing the natural resources that we would enjoy.

God blessed those founders in their efforts and has blessed our country throughout its history.  But today so many of us want to turn our backs on God.  We want Him out of our courthouses and our schools.  So many forget what He has done for us.

There’s a contentious fight over undocumented foreigners coming into our country illegally.  But whichever side of that argument you happen to be on, here’s one incontrovertible fact.  Thousands of people want to come into our country but nobody’s trying to sneak out.  If the President builds a wall, there won’t be any US citizens trying to climb over it.

So, enjoy your freedom.  Enjoy your ability to come and go as you please.  Enjoy the day off from work but don’t forget the reason for the celebration.

Check out this video:

http://a.msn.com/09/en-us/AAzwpfz?ocid=se

Happy (?) Memorial Day

American Flag

Over the weekend I heard someone wish another person “Happy Memorial Day”.  The other person called them out on their greeting saying it was inappropriate for a day set aside to remember our fallen military.  I agree.  There is nothing “happy” about losing one’s life for one’s country.  Brave–yes.  Honorable–most certainly.  But happy–I don’t think so.

Memorial Day (originally Decoration Day) was a state holiday to commemorate those lost in the Civil War.  During World War I, it was decided to honor those who lost their lives in all war.

In 1968, the federal government, in their infinite wisdom, declared Memorial Day to be a federal holiday and moved it to the last Monday in May, effective 1971.  This change meant that the day we were supposed to remember our war dead became a three-day weekend for government workers.

Memorial Day became “Open the pool day”, and “put the boat in the lake day”, and take the kids to Six Flags day”.  It became the first day of summer.  The day set aside as a memorial has become just another summer holiday, a day when we wish someone is “happy”.

I’ll be the first to admit that I managed to avoid the draft during the Viet Nam War.  I had a medical deferment.  I considered myself very lucky.  But, as the years have passed, I believe serving my country would have been good for me.  But, you can’t go back and they certainly don’t want me now.  So today, I go out of my way to thank anyone I see in uniform.  My small parish, Saint Bernadette, is located adjacent to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.  I make sure we include a petition for our military men and women at every mass.

jb

Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery

So, on this Memorial Day, please remember what it’s for.  Enjoy your picnic or your family get-together but take time to remember all the men and women who have made the supreme sacrifice so you can enjoy this day of freedom.

God bless the men and women who have died so that we might be free.

4th Sunday of Easter

PEACE BE WITH YOU!

Peter just isn’t going to let up on the elders and leaders of the people. Remember these guys would just as soon kill Peter as look at him. And eventually they do. But in our reading today from the “Acts of the Apostles he reminds them again that they crucified Jesus the Nazorean and that He has been raised from the dead. Peter is going to pay for his sharp tongue eventually, but not just yet.

 

He reminds them that the stone they rejected has become the Cornerstone. There is no salvation through anyone else.

 

Jesus begins today’s Gospel by saying, “I am the Good Shepherd”. Often in the Old Testament Israel had been referred to as sheep. One day God would send them a shepherd. Well, here he is and we celebrate Him on Good Shepherd Sunday. Interestingly, today is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. We are desperately in need of modern-day shepherds.

 

Jesus says that He’s the Good Shepherd. What makes Him better than the average shepherd? Well, He tells us. “A good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” Are you kidding me?  We would expect a “good” shepherd to do everything in his power to protect his flock. But, when push comes to shove, when the wolf is threatening the shepherd himself, would we be surprised to see the shepherd run for his life. Isn’t a human life more valuable than a sheep’s life?   But we know that Jesus isn’t talking about four-legged sheep. He’s talking about two-legged sheep; you and me.

 

But, again, Jesus is God. Whoever heard of a God giving up his life for his creatures. That’s just outrageous! But, it’s what He did. He gave up His life for you and me. He was the “good” shepherd.

 

What else makes Jesus the Good Shepherd. He tells us again. “I know mine and mine know me.” Sheep, the four-legged variety, recognize their shepherd’s voice. When it’s time for them to follow him home he calls out to them and they know which shepherd to follow. Likewise, if a sheep is in trouble, his shepherd will recognize his cry, which is distinctive from other sheep. Sheep’s voices actually sound very human.

 

Our God, even though He created the entire universe, isn’t some far-off diety. He’s close enough that He can hear and recognize our voices. That’s how He hears us pray. He knows our voice and we know His.

 

In a few minutes, we’ll all pray, both as a community and as individuals. At the same time Christians all over the world will be praying. And, He’ll hear all of us. Jesus isn’t A Good Shepherd, He’s THE Good Shepherd. He hears us and we hear Him.

3rd Sunday of Easter

PEACE BE WITH YOU!

These are the first words Jesus speaks to the Apostles both in today’s Gospel and in last week’s. Remember, last week he appeared to them in the locked room. That was when Thomas wasn’t with the others. A week later he came back, and again He greeted them “Peace be with you.” Now today He comes back as they were talking to the two disciples who had met Jesus on the road to Emmaus` and what are his first words?  “Peace be with you.”

peace be with you

See, here’s the thing. Jesus was dead. They saw Him die. He was as dead as Monty Python’s parrot.  Now, here He is again “in the flesh”. That had to be a frightening thing to experience. He knew that so He started his conversation with them by offering them “Peace”.

 

In today’s Gospel Luke writes that they were “startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost.” So Jesus said to them, “Hey. Do you have anything to eat?” “They gave Him a piece of baked fish and He ate it in front of them.” He did that to prove that He wasn’t a ghost.  If a ghost had eaten the fish it would have just fallen on the floor.

 

A little sidebar here, if you read the entire Gospel of Luke you’ll see that Jesus was always eating. The book is full of dinners that Jesus attended with various people. Luke loved to write about these events. So it’s no surprise that even after Jesus has died and been risen from the dead that Luke would introduce some food.   Luke’s Jesus would have loved Saint Louis fish fries during Lent. But, I digress.

 

Jesus tells the Apostles that everything written about Him in the law of Moses and in the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.

 

Now, if we look back at the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, also written by Luke, Peter says to the people, “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus.” Remember, in Jesus times there were lots of gods running around. There were Roman gods, and Greek gods, and Egyptian gods. But Peter tells the people that Jesus didn’t come from any of those phony-baloney gods, He came from The God. Capital T, capital G. The God of our fathers.

 

But, he doesn’t stop there. He goes on to say “You denied the holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.” Then here’s the real zinger,  “The author of life you put to death.” Ouch!

 

But John, in his letter, our second reading, gives us hope. He tells us not to sin, but if we do sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ. He is expiation for our sins.” How can we be sure of this? Keep Jesus’ commandments. And His commandments are very simple. Love Him and love our neighbors. That’s it. It’s amazing how many people can’t get that right.

 

PEACE BE WITH YOU.

 

Whatever happened to Easter finery?

As a yout’, I worked for a national department store in the “Boys’ Department’.  I’m not sure in this day of political correctness that’s the proper name for it, but what else do you call a department where you sell boys’ clothes?  Anyway, that’s what we called it in the late 60s when there were only two genders.

I thought about those days over the past weekend.  In my department store days, we were slammed the last weekend before Easter and Easter weekend itself.  Every mother wanted to get her male offspring a suit and tie to wear for Easter.  These weren’t wealthy people.  But tradition said that her ten husky had to be properly dressed for Easter Sunday.  Either a two-piece or even a three-piece suit with a new dress shirt and a clip-on tie were absolutely required.  It was a madhouse.

The Easter dressing expedition seemed to be a mother-son affair.  There weren’t a lot of dads around.  The Girls’ Department was on another floor but I assume bedlam reigned there too.  It was a ritual of spring and nobody was immune.  The only people more hassled than the workers in the Boys’ Department were the poor alteration ladies.  Of course, every suit had to be altered in one way or another.  There were no perfect ten huskies.

I got to reminiscing about those days last weekend.  Don’t get me wrong.  Lots of families come to mass on Easter dressed to the nines.  It is the day Jesus was raised from the dead and certainly calls for our best outfits.  But there are some people who just can’t be bothered.  I don’t think it has to do with money.  Some of the blue jeans I saw in church cost more than a pair of dress pants.  The hockey jersey costs just as much as a sports coat.  I think it’s just a sign of the respect we have for one another (and for God).  And as much as I hate to say it, I think it’s more prevalent among Catholics.

There is another side to this argument:  “Would Jesus turn someone away because they weren’t properly dressed?”  No, I don’t believe He would, but that’s not the point.  It’s about respect:  respect for our fellow Catholics, respect for God’s house, and respect for God Himself.

I wonder, if the Holy Father was coming to your parish and you were one of the lucky ones invited to meet him, wouldn’t you dress up?  I think you would.  Well, guess what, Jesus is the Pope’s boss and he’s in every Catholic church every Sunday in the Blessed Sacrament.  Are tank tops and tattered jeans really proper apparel?

While we’re on the subject of disrespectful behavior in church, I offer for your consideration, without comment, this article from the Catholic Herald.

If you don’t want to read the article, watching the following video should be enough.

 

Happy Easter! Let Not Your Hearts be Troubled

Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many mansions. If not, I would have told you: because I go to prepare a place for you. And if I shall go, and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will take you to myself; that where I am, you also may be. And whither I go you know, and the way you know.  Thomas saith to him: Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith to him: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me.  John 14

On Holy Thursday Father Z wrote an excellent post on the controversy concerning the Holy  Father’s comments on the existence of hell.  I would say that if there is no hell, we should probably stay home today or tomorrow.  There is a hell.  Jesus said so.  And Jesus can’t lie.  It’s as simple as that.  What’s the point of all this Easter “stuff” if there’s no hell.  Because, since Jesus told us about heaven and hell, then they both must exist.  If not, then Jesus is a liar and all the Catholics who only come to church on Easter and Christmas might as well just go straight to the buffet.  Us, too.

No, there is a hell and I, for one, don’t want to go there.  If an atheist, communist, newspaper reporter wants to twist the Pope’s words, then you and I must be smart enough to dig deeper and find out for ourselves what the Holy Father really said.  Father Z’s post is a good place to start.

I hope you and yours have the happiest and holiest Easter ever.

risen