Thursday, March 27, 2014


The sacrament of confirmation is found in Bible passages such as Acts 8:12–17, 9:17, 19:6, and Hebrews 6:2, which speak of a laying on of hands for the purpose of bestowing the Holy Spirit.

When reading the passage from Acts 8:12-17 please notice that Philip baptized those in Samaria but since Philip was not one of the Apostles, he wasn’t the ‘Philip’ from among the.  This is where we find the first indication that only an apostle (or his successor ie a bishop) can bestow the Sacrament of Confirmation.

We also see that Hebrews 6:2 is especially important because it’s not a narrative account of how confirmation was given and, thus, cannot be dismissed by those who reject the sacrament as something unique to the apostolic age. In fact, the passage refers to confirmation as one of Christianity’s basic teachings, which is to be expected since confirmation, like baptism, is a sacrament of initiation into the Christian life.

We read: "Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment" (Heb. 6:1–2).

Notice how in this passage we are walked through the successive stages of the Christian journey—repentance, faith, baptism, confirmation, resurrection, and judgment. This passage encapsulates the Christian’s journey toward heaven and gives what theologians call the order of salvation or the ordo salutis. It well qualifies as "the elementary teachings" of the Christian faith.

The laying on of hands mentioned in the passage must be confirmation: The other kinds of the imposition of hands (for ordination and for healing) are not done to each and every Christian and scarcely qualify as part of the order of salvation.


God Bless

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Sacraments

Sacraments of the Catholic Church

The liturgical life of the Catholic Church revolves around the Eucharistic sacrifice and the sacraments. There are seven sacraments in the Church: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Matrimony, and Holy Orders.

The purpose of the sacraments is to make people holy, to build up the body of Christ, and finally, to give worship to God; but being signs, they also have a teaching function. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and object, they also nourish, strengthen, and express it; that is why they are called "sacraments of faith." The sacraments impart grace, but, in addition, the very act of celebrating them disposes the faithful most effectively to receive this grace in a fruitful manner, to worship God rightly, and to practice charity.

Worship is integral to our lives as Christians. When we engage in the prayer and ritual of the Church, we are formed as Church. Our sacramental rites are of primary importance while we are gathered.

The history of human salvation is the history of the way God came to men. The first step on this way was the bridging of the gulf separating God and man in the person of the one Mediator Jesus Christ and by his work of redemption. By means of his Church Christ makes his grace available to all. Only in this application of redemption to mankind is the redemptive action of Christ completed. The doctrine of the sacraments is the doctrine of the second part of God's way of salvation to us. It deals with the holy signs which Christ instituted as the vehicles of his grace.

The great mystery of the union in Christ of a human nature with the second Person of the Godhead is that the human actions and sufferings of Christ are divine actions and sufferings. The sacraments are a living continuation of this mystery. There are earthly, external signs here which, of themselves, could never acquire any supernatural significance, but the signs of the sacraments have been made by Christ into vehicles of his grace. They effect in men the grace for which Christ made them the sign.

So there are two fundamental ideas which constantly recur in the Church's teaching, on the sacraments. First there is the Church's concern for these instituted by Christ, their number, and their proper preservation and administration; then the grace which Christ has for all time linked with these signs and which is communicated by them.

The second is the effect of the sacraments. They are the signs of Christ's work; the effectiveness of Christ's continuing work in his Church cannot be dependent on man's inadequacy. A sacrament, administered properly in the way established by Christ and with the proper intention, gives the grace it signifies. It is effective not by reason of the power of intercession of priestly prayer nor on account of the worthiness of the recipient, but solely by the power of Christ. The power of Christ lives in the sacraments. The effect of the sacrament is independent of the sinfulness or unworthiness of the minister. The Church has never tolerated any subjective qualification of the objective effectiveness of the sacraments ex opere operato. This would ultimately be to conceive the way of salvation as being man's way to God and not God's way to man.

The Church Thus Teaches: There are seven sacraments. They were instituted by Christ and given to the Church to administer. They are necessary for salvation. The sacraments are the vehicles of grace which they convey. They are validly administered by the carrying out of the sign with the proper intention. Not all are equally qualified to administer all the sacraments. The validity of the sacrament is independent of the worthiness of the minister.

God Bless

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

How to Live Lent

Moses led the Israelites through the desert for forty years.  They were traveling to the Promised Land, which flowed with “milk and honey.”  But strong warrior peoples already held that land.  During those forty years in the desert, God formed a people that was both prepared to receive the blessing and ready to do battle against the forces that opposed the establishment of His Kingdom.  It was a time of purification, instruction, and strengthening.

 Jesus spent forty days in the desert in fasting and prayer prior to beginning His public ministry.  There He experienced hunger, thirst, and temptation.  Scripture tells us that, after this forty days in the desert, Jesus started His ministry “in the power of the Spirit” (Lk 4:14), “from that time Jesus began to preach” (Mt 4:17).  The desert  experience of prayer and fasting launched Jesus in power into His ministry of proclaiming the Good News, healing the sick, and setting captives free.

Each year, Catholics spend forty days in more intense prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  We call this season Lent.  Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.  When we go to Church that day, the priest reminds us of two things:  that we will one day return to dust, and that we are stained by sin.  So we begin Lent by earnestly considering our need for repentance – and the urgency of the matter, since our time on earth is relatively short.

We need then, and throughout Lent, to fix our gaze on the goal of eternal life with the Father – the life made available to us through the resurrection of Jesus, which we celebrate on Easter.  Our entire life is a process of conversion, but Lent is the season of our life in Christ.

The Church earnestly recommends prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as practices appropriate for Lent.  These forty days, then, give us a framework for developing our personal devotions.  Many parishes offer additional times of prayer, such as communal celebration of the Stations of the Cross, Penance services, and benedictions.  Church law requires all Catholics fourteen and older to abstain from meat and foods prepared from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all the Fridays of Lent.  Catholics aged eighteen to sixty are bound by law also to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  This means they may only eat two small meals and one larger meal, with no eating in between meals.  Parishes also take special opportunities for almsgiving, so that we can contribute time, money, and goods for those in need.

But the Church law and parish programs should only be the beginning for us.  We should build upon them to make our own personal response to Christ in Lent.  We should change our “plan of life” during Lent to make it more demanding, more intensive, better suited to a time of special preparation and penance.  We may decide to increase the amount of time we spend at certain devotions, or we may choose to add certain devotions to our plan.  We may also choose to take on a special Lenten mortification – giving something up, such as television, candy, or desserts.  And, since Lent is a penitential season, sacramental confession should be an important, perhaps weekly or twice-monthly, part of our spiritual program.

Lent is the time when those who wish to enter the Catholic Church undergo a period of intense training culminating with their Baptism at the Easter Vigil.  We should pray and offer sacrifices for these new Catholics as they prepare themselves to receive the sacraments.

It’s easy for us to grow comfortable in our sin.  Lent is a wake-up call.  As Lent begins, we should do a penetrating evaluation of our lives.  Based on what we find, we should set realistic goals for improvement in virtue, and we should find the means to reach those goals.  Some people will do well to fast from complaining.  Write yourself a reminder and put it on your mirror or someplace where you will be reminded daily.  Ask God for His grace every day.  Then, every night review in God’s presence how well you’ve done in your struggle.  With a plan and a dedicated pursuit, you will reach Easter a little closer to Our Lord, reflecting His light a little more brightly.

Children should also be taught the value of Lent.  They too can offer small sacrifices.  The mother of St. Therese of Lisieux made “sacrifice beads” for little Therese.  Every time Therese made a little sacrifice out of love of Jesus during the day, she would move a bead.  At the end of the day she could “see” her love for Christ.  Therese attested that this little practice helped her grow in love for Christ.  We too can help children grow closer to Christ by teaching them to offer small sacrifices out of love.

Excerpt from the book “The How-To Book of Catholic Devotions” by Mike Aquilina and Regis J. Flaherty

God Bless

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ash Wednesday


Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.

Why we receive the ashes

Following the example of the Nine vites, who did penance in sackcloth and ashes, our foreheads are marked with ashes to humble our hearts and reminds us that life passes away on Earth. We remember this when we are told

"Remember, Man is dust, and unto dust you shall return."

Ashes are a symbol of penance made sacramental by the blessing of the Church, and they help us develop a spirit of humility and sacrifice.

The distribution of ashes comes from a ceremony of ages past. Christians who had committed grave faults performed public penance. On Ash Wednesday, the Bishop blessed the hair shirts which they were to wear during the forty days of penance, and sprinkled over them ashes made from the palms from the previous year. Then, while the faithful recited the Seven Penitential Psalms, the penitents were turned out of the church because of their sins -- just as Adam, the first man, was turned out of Paradise because of his disobedience. The penitents did not enter the church again until Maundy Thursday after having won reconciliation by the toil of forty days' penance and sacramental absolution. Later, all Christians, whether public or secret penitents, came to receive ashes out of devotion. In earlier times, the distribution of ashes was followed by a penitential procession.

The Ashes

The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. While the ashes symbolize penance and contrition, they are also a reminder that God is gracious and merciful to those who call on Him with repentant hearts. His Divine mercy is of utmost importance during the season of Lent, and the Church calls on us to seek that mercy during the entire Lenten season with reflection, prayer and penance.

Biblical Significance

Ashes were used in ancient times to express mourning. Dusting oneself with ashes was the penitent's way of expressing sorrow for sins and faults. An ancient example of one expressing one's penitence is found in Job 42:3–6. Job says to God: "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." (vv. 5–6, KJV) The prophet Jeremiah, for example, calls for repentance this way: "O daughter of my people, gird on sackcloth, roll in the ashes" (Jer 6:26). The prophet Daniel recounted pleading to God this way: "I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes" (Daniel 9:3). Just prior to the New Testament period, the rebels fighting for Jewish independence, the Maccabees, prepared for battle using ashes: "That day they fasted and wore sackcloth; they sprinkled ashes on their heads and tore their clothes" (1 Maccabees 3:47; see also 4:39).

Other examples are found in several other books of the Bible including, Numbers 19:9, 19:17, Jonah 3:6, Matthew 11:21, and Luke 10:13, and Hebrews 9:13. Ezekiel 9 also speaks of a linen-clad messenger marking the forehead of the city inhabitants that have sorrow over the sins of the people.

It marks the start of a 43-day period which is an allusion to the separation of Jesus in the desert to fast and pray. During this time he was tempted. Matthew 4:1–11, Mark 1:12–13, and Luke 4:1–13. While not specifically instituted in the Bible text, the 40-day period of repentance is also analogous to the 40 days during which Moses repented and fasted in response to the making of the Golden calf.

God Bless