Thursday, July 25, 2013

Eucharistic Adoration

Why Eucharistic Adoration?
All the sacraments are blessed! All the sacraments give us the grace of Jesus but this sacrament gives us Jesus himself. This is what we Catholics believe.

Why do we believe this? Not because some theologians say so, not even because the Church says so. We believe this for only one reason, because Jesus Christ says so, and we believe Him.

Many who try to follow Jesus do not believe this, as we Catholics do. This fact should not surprise us any. Jesus had the same problem with some of His own disciples. When Jesus first told His own followers that He would give His body and blood as food and drink as spiritual nourishment for the soul, many of His followers – His disciples – would not accept that. They could not believe Him, so they left Him. Jesus did not try to call them back. He didn't say, "Now, wait a minute! You misunderstood me! I was only talking symbolically". No! He let them go. If they could not believe Him, they could not be His disciples. It was that simple.

Then Jesus asked His apostles if they wanted to leave Him too. He was ready to let His apostles go also. We know that Peter, speaking for the group said, "Lord, to whom should we go? We know that you only, have the words of eternal life".

The apostles took Jesus at His word, and we do too.

This sacrament of the Holy Eucharist comes to us through the sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist, the sacrifice of the Mass. This is evident because the Mass is the renewal of Jesus' death on the cross. In this sacrifice He gave up His human life, His physical body and blood, for our salvation. It was at the Last Supper that Jesus instituted the sacrament and sacrifice.

It was the night before He died. Jesus knew that He soon had to leave His friends. Friends He loved so much. He wanted to leave them something to remember Him by, but He did much better than that, He left Himself.

At the Last Supper, Jesus was looking ahead to the next day when He would die on the cross. This is why He said, "This is my body, which will be given up for you. This is my blood, which will be shed for you". Then He commanded "Do this in memory of me". We fulfill that command every day. As Jesus at the Last Supper was looking ahead to Calvary, so we in the sacrifice of the Mass, look back to Calvary.

This is why St. Paul could say: "When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the death of the Lord". It's the same sacrifice on the cross and in the Mass – the same sacrifice.

Jesus chose this very special way to remain here with us. It was not just an empty promise when Jesus said, "I will be with you all days, even to the end of the world". He meant that! Jesus remains here with us today in the Mass as our Savior, in Holy Communion, as our spiritual food and in our tabernacle as our friend. Jesus died on the cross to give us this sacrament of His presence among us. This is the sacrament of Jesus' love for us.

I like the way Blessed Mother Teresa put it. She said, "When we look at the cross, we know how much Jesus loved us. When we look at the tabernacle, we know how much Jesus loves us now".

Some Catholics think, that we can share in the Eucharist and gain grace from the Eucharist only in the Mass by receiving Holy Communion. This idea limits the power and the love of Jesus too much. Certainly participation in the sacrifice of the Mass and receiving Holy Communion is the most powerful source of grace for us, but it is not the only source of Eucharistic grace. After the sacrifice is completed, the sacrament continues on. Jesus, in His sacramental body and blood remains here with us as our friend, just as He promised. This is why Eucharistic Adoration is so important.

This is why we should visit our friend, Jesus, in the Blessed Sacrament, to return His love for us and to draw spiritual strength and nourishment and encouragement from that love.

Some ask, "Can we really justify the luxury of spending time in private prayer? Wouldn't it be better to spend that time, say, visiting the sick"? To answer that question, let me turn again to Blessed Mother Teresa. You can see I'm a great fan of Blessed Mother Teresa, but then who isn't? The whole world knows that Blessed Mother Teresa's sisters devote their lives to seeking out and caring for the most helpless and abandoned of the poor, the sick and the homeless. Most of the world knows and admires the work of Mother Teresa's sisters, but I doubt that many know about the prayer life of their community. Each day, before they go out into the streets to find the sick and the dying, Blessed Mother Teresa's sisters spend two to three hours in prayer, assisting at Mass and in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Once a well-meaning critic asked Blessed Mother Teresa how she could justify her sisters' spending so much time in private prayer instead of using that time to serve the sick and the poor. Blessed Mother Teresa replied, "If my sisters did not spend so much time in prayer, they could not serve the sick and the poor at all". Their prayer before the Holy Eucharist is the source of the strength and all that is needed to carry out their extremely difficult apostolate.

The love of God must be expressed and strengthened so that love of neighbor might flow from it.

One time when Blessed Mother Teresa was visiting in our country, a group of American women asked her what they could do to help her in her work. Blessed Mother Teresa replied, "The greatest help they could give her would be to spend one hour each week in silent adoration before the Blessed Sacrament". That is good advice for us too.

Sometimes those who object to Eucharistic adoration complain that adoration is too much "Jesus and I". They charge that adoration intends to be selfish, turning our thoughts and attention inward instead of reaching out to others. Again, an obvious response is to look at Blessed Mother Teresa's sisters and just to mention the time they spend in private prayer and adoration. I doubt that anyone can match their concern for their neighbor, especially for the most desperate of the abandoned. Who would dare to call their work selfish? Any pastor who has Eucharistic Adoration in his parish will testify that the regular adorers are among the most active members of his parish. From my own experience, preaching in many parishes, I know that active adorers are very often, also the most active pro-lifers in the parish. If we could get adoration going in every Catholic parish, perhaps we could at least get Catholics out of the business of killing babies.

So finally we go back to our subject entitled: "Why Eucharistic Adoration"? Why should you spend time visiting with Jesus in the Eucharist, simply because Jesus himself, your best friend, invites you. He said it so warmly, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened. Come to me and I will refresh you". Who could refuse such an invitation from your very best friend? God Bless You.

Text adapted from

God Bless

Friday, July 19, 2013

Redemptive Suffering

Today’s readings involve some of the most difficult to understand but, at the same time, some of the most encouraging words one could hear in times of suffering.

Why do we suffer?  Shouldn’t our faith and prayers shield us from pain?  The simple answer is, no.  As you know Jesus Christ didn’t suffer and die to save us from suffering, He suffered and died to save us from the loss of Heaven.  In fact, Jesus Himself said that If anyone wishes to come after [Him}, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow [Him]” (Luke 9:23).  We are to pick it up every day in an ongoing process.  What He HAS promised us however is that nothing we experience is beyond our capabilities since He will be with us always, until the end of time (Mat 28:20) and that He would not leave us as orphans (John 14:18).  Jesus is our strength, our faith in Him is what strengthens us.

The faithful Christian will suffer, by the cross, no matter how much faith one may have.  That faith, though, is what gives an individual the strength to persevere.   Paul himself suffered even while he prayed for it to go away.  He said: “I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me” (2 Cor 12:7-8).  The Lord didn’t grant his prayer because He had better plans.  We know this because God spoke to Paul in response to his plea and told him: ““My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9).  Paul rejoiced in his suffering because it had a purpose in his life for the building up of the Church (Col 1:24).  Isn’t it wonderful that whatever suffering one is going through we know that it can be redemptive and help build up the Church?

But how can this be?  How can our sufferings help ‘build up the Church’?  Well we know that the Church includes all the individual members as a whole and so we can infer that our sufferings can help individual members of our community of believers.  How we suffer through what God has deemed necessary for our good without complaint can give others strength in persevering in their sufferings.  It can also help others who are suffering in Purgatory while they await entrance into heaven.

At a staff member answered the question of anothers need for redemptive suffering by referencing the Colossians passage, Paul said in Colossians 1:24: "Now I [Paul] rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church."

The employee continued: “Paul doesn’t mean that Christ’s death is insufficient for universal redemption. He is simply saying that his own incorporation into the mystical body of Christ (the Church) means that his sufferings can be helpful for other members of the body (the Colossian Christians to whom he is writing). They are helpful only because Paul is united to Christ in his Church and is offering his sufferings to Christ for the sake of the Church.”

In the same way, suffering souls can similarly offer up their sufferings for the benefit of others.  That is, we just need to ‘offer it up’ through prayer.  It truly is wonderful that whatever suffering we may have, it can be of use in helping others.  There is a purpose to our suffering, a purpose for us as well as for others.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

12 Things to Know About the HHS Mandate

On February 15, 2012 the Obama Administration published a final rule mandating contraception and sterilization coverage in almost all private health plans nationwide, with an extremely narrow “exemption” for some religious employers. In a March 21 “Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,” the Administration leaves this mandate unchanged, while proposing an “accommodation” under which the mandate might be applied in various ways to the employees of religious organizations that do not receive the exemption. Important points to understand:

1. The mandate forces coverage of sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs and devices as well as contraception. Though commonly called the “contraceptive mandate,” the federal mandate also forces employers to sponsor and subsidize coverage of sterilization. And by including all drugs approved by the FDA for use as contraceptives, the mandate includes drugs that can induce abortion such as “Ella” (Ulipristal), a close cousin of the abortion pill RU-486.
The mandate does not exempt Catholic charities, schools, universities, or hospitals. These institutions are vital to the mission of the Church, but the Administration does not deem them “religious employers” deserving conscience protection because they do not “serve primarily persons who share the[ir] religious tenets.” The Administration denies these organizations religious freedom precisely because their religiously motivated purpose is to serve the common good of society—a purpose that government should encourage, not punish.
The mandate forces these institutions and others, against their conscience, to pay for and facilitate things they consider immoral. Under the mandate, the government forces religious insurers to write policies that violate their beliefs; forces religious employers and schools to subsidize and facilitate coverage that violates their beliefs; and forces conscientiously objecting employees and students to purchase coverage that violates their beliefs.
The federal mandate is much more sweeping than existing state mandates. Employers can generally avoid the contraceptive mandates in 28 states by self-insuring their prescription drug coverage, dropping that part of their coverage altogether, or opting for regulation under a federal law (ERISA) that pre-empts state law. The HHS mandate closes off all these avenues of relief. HHS’ policy of mandating surgical sterilization coverage is reflected in only one state law, Vermont. HHS also chose as its model the narrowest state-level religious exemption, drafted by the ACLU and existing in only 3 states (New York, California, Oregon).
Many others have joined the Catholic bishops in speaking out against the mandate. Many recognize this as an assault on the broader principle of religious liberty, whether or not they agree with the Church on the underlying moral question. For example, at a February 2012 congressional hearing on this issue, testimony supporting the USCCB’s position was heard from the President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, a distinguished Orthodox rabbi, and officials and professors from several Protestant institutions of higher learning. The nation’s 2 largest non-Catholic denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, has strongly criticized the contraceptive mandate, as have leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals, Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, Evangelicals for Social Action, and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. An online declaration supporting the Church’s position has been signed by about 28,000 Catholic and non-Catholic women, including many health professionals, academics and businesswomen.
The rule that created the uproar has not changed at all, but was finalized as is. After its initial proposal of August 2011 was widely criticized across the political spectrum as an attack on religious freedom, the Administration announced its final rule of February 15, 2012 as a compromise. But in fact that rule finalizes the original proposal “without change.” So religious organizations dedicated to serving people of other faiths are still not exempt as “religious employers.”
The proposed “accommodation” is not a current rule, but a promise that comes due beyond the point of public accountability. On February 15, besides finalizing its mandate without change, HHS also announced it will develop more regulations to apply that mandate differently to “non-exempt, non-profit religious organizations”—the charities, schools, and hospitals that were left out of the “religious employer” exemption. The regulations for this “accommodation” will be developed during a one-year delay in enforcement, their impact not felt until after the November election.
In its March 21 Advance Notice, HHS makes it clear that even the “accommodation” will do nothing to help objecting insurers, objecting employers that are not “religious” as defined by HHS, or individuals. In its August 2011 comments, and many times since, the Catholic bishops’ conference identified all the stakeholders in the process whose religious freedom is threatened—all employers, insurers, and individuals, not only those who meet the government’s definition of religious employers. It is now clear that all insurers, including self-insurers, must provide the coverage; and almost all individuals who pay premiums (whether enrolled in an individual plan or an employer plan) have no escape from subsidizing that coverage. Only organizations identified as “religious” (to be defined by later regulation) may qualify for the “accommodation.”
Even religious charities, schools, and hospitals that do qualify for the “accommodation” will still be forced to violate their beliefs. The mandate will still be applied with full force to all employees of these “second-class-citizen” religious institutions, and to the employees’ dependents such as teenage children. While the Administration says employees will not pay an additional charge for this coverage, ultimately the funds to pay for it must come from the premium dollars of the employer and employees. And when these organizations provide any health coverage to their employees, that will be the trigger for having the objectionable coverage provided “automatically” to all these employees and their dependents -- even if both employer and employee object to it.
The “women’s health” claims behind the mandate are doubtful at best. Pregnancy itself is not a disease, but the normal way that each of us came into the world – and there are other ways to avoid an untimely pregnancy than the surgical procedures and prescription drugs 3 mandated for women’s coverage here. (Neither natural family planning, nor male methods such as condoms or vasectomies, are included in the mandate.) Many studies have found contraceptive programs failing to reduce unintended pregnancies or abortions. Hormonal contraceptives have been associated with an increased risk for stroke, heart attacks, vascular disease and breast cancer, some of the greatest killers of women today. Injectable contraceptive drugs are associated with an increased risk for contracting and transmitting AIDS, a deadly disease the “preventive services” mandate is supposed to help prevent. Medical experts raising such concerns cannot be accused of waging a “war on women.”
This is not about any legitimate medical use for hormonal or other drugs. Contrary to some media claims, Catholic ethical directives on health care (and the health plans based on them) allow use of medications for serious non-contraceptive purposes, even if the same drugs could also be prescribed for contraception. The idea that respect for Catholic moral objections to contraception could endanger access to such drugs for use in healing disease is a red herring.
12. Beware of claims, especially by partisans, that the Catholic bishops are partisan. The bishops warned Congress about the need for clear conscience protection in the face of new health coverage mandates throughout the debate on health care reform; they were arguing against the proposed contraceptive mandate and other new threats to religious freedom in 2010. Since then they have simply continued advocating the same moral principles. The bishops did not pick this fight, or decide that it would continue into an election year—others did. The Church forms its positions based on principles—here, religious liberty for all, and the life and dignity of every human person—not polls, personalities, or political parties.

God Bless

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Fortnight for Freedom

HHS Mandate Not the Only Threat to Religious Freedom

By Molly Loesel

While the Health and Human Services (HHS) contraception/sterilization/abortifacient mandate is often the focus of those concerned with current threats to religious freedom in the U.S., there have been several recent court cases involving the Catholic Church which also look to undermine our First Amendment rights.

Three female teachers – a computer teacher in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Ohio, a first-grade teacher in the same Archdiocese and a physical education teacher from the Diocese of Fort Wayne – South Bend, Indiana – sued their respective dioceses after losing their jobs for publicly violating moral teachings of the Church. Two cases involved the Church’s moral objection to in vitro fertilization, and the first-grade teacher in Ohio was fired after becoming pregnant out of wedlock. Christa Dias, the former computer teacher in the Ohio case, is also an openly practicing lesbian. The Archdiocese of Cincinnati and the Diocese of Fort Wayne—South Bend both contend that the women violated employment contracts where they promised to abide by the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.

At the beginning of June, a civil jury ruled against the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in the case of the lesbian woman who used IVF to become pregnant, and awarded her over $170,000 to be paid by the Archdiocese ($50,000 in back pay, $21,000 in compensatory damages, and $100,000 in punitive damages). The jury found the Archdiocese to be in violation of federal pregnancy anti-discrimination laws for terminating Dias after she became pregnant. The Archdiocese is considering an appeal. The other two lawsuits are still pending.

The Dias ruling is a serious blow to religious freedom in America. To put it in perspective: the court just fined the Catholic Church for firing a Catholic school employee who violated a promise to live in accordance with Catholic teaching.

In response to the many threats to religious freedom in the “Land of the Free,” the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is once again sponsoring a national Fortnight for Freedom from June 21 to July 4. This period of prayer, fasting and action is meant to unite the faithful in defending our religious freedom.

June 21 is the eve of the feast of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, both of whom were martyred because of their refusal to support the King of England’s break with the Catholic Church. What better patrons could we have for our stand for religious freedom than these faithful men who died rather than act against their consciences?

Parishes, dioceses and lay organizations have planned a number of special events around the country in solidarity with the bishops on this effort. Human Life International is supporting the Fortnight by asking for pledges to pray the Rosary during the Fortnight and ask our Blessed Mother to intercede for the protection of religious freedom in the U.S. and around the world.

It is not only in the USA that Christians are being bullied. Indeed, Head of the Observatory on Religious Liberty Dr. Massimo Introvigne has argued that Christians are the most persecuted group in the world. At the annual meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), he cited laws in 15 European countries that threaten the religious liberty of Christians, and at last year’s meeting he mentioned 169 court rulings in Europe that were dangerous for the liberties of Christians. In concluding his report to the OSCE, Introvigne warned, “Where discrimination becomes normal, the transition to violence is never far away.” A look throughout history confirms the truth of his prediction.

One of the many reasons we are proud to be Americans is because we are blessed with many freedoms that other people throughout the world do not share. Unfortunately, we have learned over the years that these cherished freedoms are not safe from the nation’s lawmakers. If we are to retain these freedoms, we must be willing to stand up for them, starting now with our foundational right to freely practice our faith. This upcoming Fortnight for Freedom is a time to unite and stand up to lawmakers, judges and all those threatening our constitutional right to religious freedom. Let’s not waste the opportunity.