O, come let us adore Him…
This Advent we will spend each Sunday reflecting a bit on what it means to adore Jesus in the flesh by exploring the Nativity through the eyes of four different groups of people who all came to adore Jesus at His birth.
The first two people to have the opportunity to adore the baby Jesus were His parents, Joseph and Mary. Imagine the quiet, still night on which He was born. Having travelled to Bethlehem for the census, the Holy Family was far away from their home and all the comforts within it. There were no comfortable rooms available for them in town and they were left to welcome their newborn baby in a stable amongst animals. The Savior of the world came into the world amidst the humblest of circumstances. What Joseph, Mary, and Jesus did have was each other, bound by an unmatched familial love for one another, which would transcend any and all circumstances, no matter how challenging they might seem. Although perhaps not the most comfortable arrangements, one thing the stable did offer them was the privacy to bask in that love together, alone as a family.READ MORE
This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. This feast day was first established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 in response to the secularism he saw creeping into the world as more and more people began to reject having Jesus at the center of their lives. He stated that unless the Empire of the Lord was restored, there would be no peace and harmony between individuals or nations. In preparation for this week’s reflection, I read Pope Pius’ encyclical Quas Primas, in which he officially established the feast. As well as being a beautiful document, it also seems timelier today than ever before, which we will get into a little later. Before I dive into Pope Pius’ thoughts on the Kingship of Jesus, I will clear up a couple of historical details. In Quas Primas, Pope Pius proclaims the feast to take place on the last Sunday of October to precede All Saints Day. In 1969, Pope Paul VI moved the feast to the last Sunday in Ordinary Time, right before Advent, because he thought it more fitting to close out the year focusing on Christ’s dominion. Secondly, when Pope Pius originally established the feast, he called it the Feast of Christ the King. When Pope Paul changed the day of the celebration, he added “of the Universe” to emphasize the depth and breadth of the Kingdom of God. Both popes’ contributions to this feast have led to how we continue to celebrate this feast today.READ MORE
There is a very simple, yet very profound and beautiful quote by St. Thérèse of Lisieux: “Everything is grace.” Everything is indeed grace and we will unpack what that means practically for us.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines grace like this: “Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and eternal life. Grace is a participation in the life of God.” (CCC #1996-1997, emphasis added.) The Catechism further differentiates between habitual grace and actual graces saying, “Habitual grace, the permanent disposition to live and act in keeping with God’s call, is distinguished from actual graces which refer to God’s interventions, whether at the beginning of conversion or in the course of the work of sanctification.” (CCC #2000, emphasis added.)
Starting at the beginning of this definition of grace, we see that the gift is free and undeserved. We currently live in a culture where people tell themselves they deserve to have anything they want, whenever they want, simply because they want it or think they have earned it in some way. So, to hear that God is giving us a free and undeserved gift might sound rather shocking to the modern ear. The truth is, that due to our sinful nature we don’t actually deserve this gift of grace that God freely offers us. The sins that we commit every single day are the same sins that nailed Jesus to His cross for our sake (another freely given and undeserved gift) which, by our human standards, is a pretty unforgivable thing to do. By offering us this undeserved gift of grace, God is demonstrating His unconditional love for us and His deep desire for us to return that love to Him.
The second part of the definition says that the gift of grace allows us to participate in the life of God, which is Trinitarian and thus includes the life of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It means we can be yoked into the family of God and draw from that wellspring of familial love, affection, and assistance. It also means that every single human experience we could ever have can be yoked to every human experience Jesus ever had. Then, in each of these moments, we can tie in the third part of the definition; we can see how God intervenes for us and works with us and for us in everything we experience.READ MORE
Unique to the Catholic Church is the role of the pope as head of the Church on earth. Thus, there are some common misunderstandings about his role and the Church’s teaching of papal infallibility. It is important to note that these misunderstandings have been around for a long time and are not just arising now. It is always worth refreshing our catechetical memories from time to time.
As we pronounce in the Creed, we say that our Church is apostolic, which means it is built on the “foundation of the Apostles,” since Christ chose them to be His first witnesses and teachers of the faith (CCC #857). The Church teaches that the twelve Apostles were the first bishops who went out and set up churches far and wide. We review the great commission:
And Jesus said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
From Jesus’ words, we can extract certain things: 1) He is establishing them explicitly as teachers, 2) they have the power to do certain things per His authority, and 3) He will remain with the Church forever to help and guide her. We also know that later, on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was sent as a guide and protector of the newly established Church and to empower the Apostles’ teaching office (Acts 2). Apostolic succession ensures that all bishops today can be traced back to the original Apostles.READ MORE
Today we celebrate the feast of All Saints and recognize and honor all the holy men and women who have come before us. Our Church gives us a gift in acknowledging the great saints who have left us their examples of how to be a follower of Jesus Christ with heroic virtue. We are not left on our own to navigate what it means to be a good disciple. Studying the saints can always inspire us to live out our Christian Faith in new ways.
As difficult as it may seem at times, we too are all called to be saints. We are all called to live a life of heroic virtue in imitation of Jesus. There is a wonderful document, called Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution of Christ), that came out of the Second Vatican Council. It outlines what the Church is and her role in the world. The chapter, “The Call to Holiness,” is dedicated to our role as laity since you and I are members of the Church. This is a universal call that applies to each one of us, regardless of our state in life. In other words, the call to holiness is not just for priests and religious, or other seemingly pious people, but to each and every one of us.READ MORE
This week we have some exciting news to share! Recently, our parish’s Order of the Secular Franciscans was gifted a relic of St. Clare of Assisi, follower of St. Francis of Assisi and founder of the Order of the Poor Clares. The relic was gifted to a professed member of our parish Fraternity when, providentially, the original plans for its display elsewhere fell through. On Nov 1, the relic will be installed near the stained-glass representation of St. Clare (by the St. Joseph statue in the back of the church).READ MORE
As we conclude our discussion of Christian stewardship this week, we will take a brief look at our final gift to share, which is our treasure.
The mission of the Catholic Church and the reason for her existence is for the salvation of souls. As a member of the Catholic Church, you presumably believe in that mission and therefore have a share in it. On a smaller and more focused level, our parish shares in the same mission right here in our local community. We have ministries that provide opportunities for parishioners to grow information and discipleship. We have a beautiful Adoration chapel (hopefully soon to be open 24 hours again!) where everyone, not just parishioners, can go to seek refuge and solace with Jesus at the foot of the cross. We have a beautiful parish campus that our staff works hard to maintain as a beautiful, safe, and inviting environment for anyone to feel wanted and welcome. All of these things require our help through the gift of our tithing, not because we are obligated, but because we believe in the mission of our Church.READ MORE
Continuing with our reflection on Christian stewardship, this week we will take a closer look at how we can use the gift of our talents on our mission of discipleship in this life.
Remember last week we discussed Jesus’ great commission when he told his apostles to go and make disciples of all nations, and how that this call to action applies to us as well (Mt. 28:19). After a period of intentional, focused prayer, the Holy Spirit descended upon them and enabled them to speak many different languages so that they might use that gift in order to convert others to Christianity, which they did (Acts 2:1-41). The ability to speak to different groups of people was not something they sought out or worked to cultivate by their own human desire, but rather a gift of talent, freely given to them by God with an implied invitation to use the gift in their mission of creating disciples. You also have talents given to you by God, which He invites you to use for the good of His Kingdom on Earth.READ MORE
October is a month in which we like to examine how we’ve utilized our gifts of time, talent, and treasure in serving God and others over the past year and decide how we might commit to growth in the coming year. Last year, you may recall, we filled out commitment forms detailing how we might be better Christian stewards in the coming year. Needless to say, the year did not go as any of us planned and it very likely impacted the commitments we made.
It is important to note that circumstances in life can always change, at any time, for any reason. Loss of employment, loss of a loved one, illness, and unexpected bills are all examples of things that can get lobbed at us, throwing us off course. Not one of us is promised anything in this life, particularly stability. Life is constantly in flux because that’s the nature of it. That being said, we can still plan, while remaining flexible and trusting that God has everything under control.READ MORE
We have now reached the fifth and final week of this Marian series. We covered the four Marian dogmas and will now conclude with the one doctrine which the Church teaches regarding our Blessed Mother. If you remember from the first week, the doctrine is to be held as true and a matter of our Faith to be believed, but it has not yet been elevated to the level of dogma, which could be for any number of reasons. This doctrine defines Mary’s spiritual motherhood over the Body of Christ through her three-fold role of co-redemptrix, mediatrix, and advocate. Generally, it makes sense that we should call Mary our own spiritual mother. After all, she gave physical birth to Jesus, who is the head of the mystical body, the Church. If we are all members of that mystical body, joined to the head, then, by extension, she’s a mother to the full-body, not simply just the head. In his encyclical Ad Diem Illum Laetissimum on the Immaculate Conception, Pope Pius X says:READ MORE
We have now reached the fourth and final Marian Dogma as defined and taught by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church – the Assumption of Mary. In a sense, the Assumption is the natural culmination of the previous three dogmas. If you accept, as the Church teaches, that Mary is the Mother of God, that she kept her virginal purity and integrity intact, and that she is the Immaculate Conception, the dogma on the Assumption is nothing less than fitting.
On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII proclaimed the fourth Marian dogma in his document Munificentissimus Deus. In this document, Pope Pius says, “We pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed, body and soul, into heavenly glory.” In other words, Mary is currently enjoying her bodily resurrection in heaven with Jesus, which is what we all look forward to one day. As with the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Pius refers to Genesis 3:15 as part of the foundation for the Assumption. In Genesis, Satan and his seed are put in direct opposition to the woman and her seed. Again, if Satan brings about sin and death, then to be in direct opposition to that necessarily means no sin and no death. Mary and Jesus must triumph over death.READ MORE
I hope you are enjoying this Marian series. This week we continue our in-depth look at what the Church teaches about Mary as we dive into the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
Typically, we would start by explaining what we mean by Immaculate Conception. In this case though, we must first settle on what it is not. It is not uncommon for people to think the Immaculate Conception refers to the conception of Jesus Christ in Mary’s womb by the Holy Spirit. That was certainly a miraculous conception, but it is not what we mean by the Immaculate Conception. By means of the Magisterium, on December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX gave us a very succinct and meaty definition of the Immaculate Conception in his apostolic constitution entitled Ineffabilis Deus which reads:READ MORE
This week, we’ll take a closer look at the second Marian Dogma declared by the Magisterium, which is Mary’s perpetual, or three-fold, virginity. This dogma was confirmed at the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 AD and then later pronounced by Pope Martin I at the First Lateran Council in 640 AD. By three-fold virginity, we mean that Mary was a virgin before the birth of Jesus, during the birth of Jesus, and after the birth of Jesus. I will explain what each of those mean in more detail and clarify some common questions.
To start, Mary was a virgin before she conceived and bore Jesus. This is something all Christian religions agree on and is not much of a hurdle to get across. We look to Tradition for our first source of authenticity on this matter. The Apostles’ Creed, which was developed in the very early Church, proclaims, we believe in Jesus “…who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary…” This shows that even the earliest Christians understood the Savior to be born of a virgin. We can also look to Scripture for the foundations of this belief. Isaiah 7:14 tells us, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Then, after the Angel Gabriel appears to Mary to tell her she will conceive and bear a son, her response is, “How will this be, since I do not know man?” (Luke 1:34). Here, she is alluding to her virginity. She is not doubting the word of the angel, but merely asking how it will come about since it will not be in the natural way. Gabriel explains that the Holy Spirit will descend upon her in order for the conception to occur. So, between both Tradition and Scripture, it is not a far leap for Christians to agree on the state of Mary’s virginity before the birth of Christ.READ MORE
Today, I begin a five-part series on the four Marian dogmas and the fifth Marian doctrine as defined by the Catholic Church. First, though, we should deal with how we define the terms doctrine and dogma. Doctrine refers to a teaching from the Magisterium pertaining to faith and morals that has been determined to be theologically true and certain. As Catholics, we are called to give our assent to any teaching the Magisterium has declared to be doctrine. Dogma, however, is an elevated truth that has been certainly revealed by God and is to be believed. This does not make a doctrine any less true than a dogma or that we should not give our assent to doctrine, rather, it simply highlights some things as worthy of understanding at a higher level. A doctrine can actually become a dogma in one of two ways. One way is for an Ecumenical Council to discuss the matter, come to an agreement on elevating the doctrine, and then have it confirmed by the Holy Father. The second way is for the Holy Father to make an “ex-cathedra,” or infallible, a statement on the matter himself. A doctrine may be further developed as more truth is revealed (though it can never change). Dogma cannot be changed, as it is the fullness of truth as revealed by God. Today, I begin a five-part series on the four Marian dogmas and the fifth Marian doctrine as defined by the Catholic Church. First, though, we should deal with how we define the terms doctrine and dogma. Doctrine refers to a teaching from the Magisterium pertaining to faith and morals that has been determined to be theologically true and certain. As Catholics, we are called to give our assent to any teaching the Magisterium has declared to be doctrine. Dogma, however, is an elevated truth that has been certainly revealed by God and is to be believed. This does not make a doctrine any less true than a dogma or that we should not give our assent to doctrine, rather, it simply highlights some things as worthy of understanding at a higher level. A doctrine can actually become a dogma in one of two ways. One way is for an Ecumenical Council to discuss the matter, come to an agreement on elevating the doctrine, and then have it confirmed by the Holy Father. The second way is for the Holy Father to make an “ex-cathedra,” or infallible, a statement on the matter himself. A doctrine may be further developed as more truth is revealed (though it can never change). Dogma cannot be changed, as it is the fullness of truth as revealed by God.READ MORE