The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

The thoughts expressed here are my personal thoughts and sometimes reflect my political views. As a private citizen I have every right to express these views.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Homily: Feast of St.James the Greater, Apostle - July 25

Readings: 2 Cor 4:7-15; Ps 126; Mt 20:20-28

Ambition can be a funny thing. It's not always a bad thing, since it's a necessary trait when it comes to setting and achieving goals for oneself or for an organization. But when it becomes an end in itself, when it loses any sense of balance and ceases to consider its effect on others...well, then it can corrupt. 

Yes, the overly ambitious, those obsessed with achieving their own ends regardless of the consequences, can become very ruthless people. Most of us have probably known a few. I even worked for one for about a year, and it was not a pleasant experience. He ended up letting his overreaching ambition cloud his sense of morality and one day he was suddenly escorted from the building by security guards.

We get a little taste of runaway ambition in today's Gospel passage from Matthew. James and his brother, John, who with Peter are the favored three Apostles, approach Jesus accompanied by their mother. According to Matthew, mom is the one who asks Jesus to promise her sons the highest places in His Kingdom. Now, whether Mrs. Zebedee did this on her own or the boys put her up to it, we don't know.

Jesus, of course, isn't fooled and responds not to their mother, but directly to James and John. Recognizing the potential for corruption in their ambition, He nips it in the bud by asking them, "Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?" Without fully understanding what they are agreeing to, they say they can. Jesus concurs with their agreement because he knows what awaits them.

Jesus with the mother of James and John
Like a parent counseling an adolescent by offering a realistic view of the adult challenges that lie before him, Jesus reveals they will have much to suffer. And indeed it was James, whose feast we celebrate today, who became the first martyr among the apostles. Jesus also knows that ambition, when properly ordered, isn’t a bad thing, and He doesn’t want to totally extinguish His disciples’ enthusiasm. After all, it’s an enthusiasm focused on eternal life, a goal we should all have. Indeed, great things are rarely achieved without enthusiasm, or without pain. Jesus just wants to refocus their ambition, to ensure they understand not only the goal, but also the true nature of the path required to achieve it.
Of course, in this small group, the other apostles overheard the exchange and got all upset at James and John. But in their petulance they demonstrate that they too can succumb to the temptations of personal ambition. And so Jesus gives all twelve a little lecture about power and authority – reminding them that authority in the Kingdom must not imitate the authoritarianism so prevalent in the world.
Their job as apostles, as the first shepherds of His Church, is not to rule but to serve…and to serve all equally. And He doesn’t just tell them to serve each other and the lowly, but He offers Himself as an example –revealing that He will even go so far as to sacrifice His very life for humanity.
“…the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
He must increase...
The apostles could also look to another as a model, someone they all knew. For when it comes to controlling ambition, is there a better example than John the Baptist? Like all the great prophets, John pursued his goal with remarkable single-mindedness. He announced the Lord’s coming, preparing a path for Him, a path of repentance among God’s chosen people. And in doing so he stated clearly that “He must increase, I must decrease.” This was John’s ambition: to give greater glory to the Lord in all that he did.
This is really what Jesus is telling the James, John and the others: that the ambitious are certainly blessed, but their ambition must be driven not by self-assertion, but by self-extinction.
And so the message for us is the same: that we always act in thanks and praise: In thanks, because all we have, all we are, all we achieve – all of this is due solely to the grace of God. And in praise, because all we do must be done for God’s glory, not for ours.
As the psalmist said: “Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory.”

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Olympics and other things

I must be getting old, turning into a kind of curmudgeon, because I find myself increasingly at odds with what our society offers up as good and worthy. No, that's not quite right. Society doesn't simply offer these things to us and tell us they're good; rather it throws them at us, rubs our noses in them, submerges us in their squalor, and then tells us to inhale deeply. It then attacks and intimidates any who might in the smallest way object to such treatment. Examples abound...

The reaction to the comments of Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy are beyond belief. Well, they should be beyond belief, but in our increasingly decadent society, you can safely believe them. Mr. Cathy, speaking of his company, simply said:

"We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that. We intend to stay the course. We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles." 

Omigosh! The man unwittingly pulled a half-dozen politically incorrect triggers and apparently exposed himself as an ignorant, intolerant, homophobic troglodyte. No doubt Eric Holder has already put together a team of prosecutors to investigate the criminal acts that obviously lie behind such comments. The reactions from across this once-great land were near instantaneous.

Mayor Menino "talking"
Mayor Tom Menino, perhaps the most inarticulate mayor in America, reacted with remarkable stupidity and declared that Chick-fil-A didn't belong in Boston, the city that boasted the Freedom Trail. It would seem Mr. Cathy, by exercising his freedom of speech in support of values held by the vast majority of Americans for over two centuries, is to be denied that freedom in a city that played such a major role in our nation's fight for freedom. The mayor only reinforces my decision almost a decade ago to leave Massachusetts for Florida. In Chicago too -- where else but corrupt, murderous Chicago? -- Chick-fil-A's despicable values were declared not to be "Chicago's values." Similar comments gushed forth from many of the nation's self-proclaimed smart people.

Personally, I'm with Mr. Cathy. Homosexual marriage is an abomination. The homosexual lifestyle is sinful, just as fornication and adultery and abortion and theft and murder are sinful. One cannot engage in any of these and lead the kind of holy life God wants for us.

I've also decided to visit our local Chick-fil-A on Monday and consume one of their salads (I'm on a diet) in support of Mr. Cathy and his family. I'd go tomorrow after Mass, but Chick-fil-A, in open defiance of market economics, has a "closed on Sunday" policy. Our local Chick-fil-A has also supported one of the ministries dear to my heart: the Wildwood Soup Kitchen, thus giving me another reason to support them in turn.

To read more on Chick-fil-A and its maniacal detractors, check out Mark Steyn's latest column.

Some still enjoy the Olympics
Then there are the Olympics. In truth, I really don't care about the Olympic Games. I don't care if the US athletes win or lose. I don't care about gold medal count or new world records. Why bother? The Olympics are no longer the global venue they once were for amateur athletes to compete worthily in a display of true sportsmanship. The games have simply become another arena for professional athletes to display their oversized egos on a grander scale. Gone is any pretense of gentlemanly competition among amateur athletes. The Olympics have been transformed into a series of in-your-face events, more similar to Roman gladiatorial bouts than real sport. The fact that all athletes must be tested for drugs, blood doping, and other performance enhancing techniques says much about the place of sportsmanship in the Olympics and our society at large. And have you noticed the almost religious nature of so many of the Olympic ceremonies? Watching them is like participating in some ancient pagan ritual -- all very bizarre. Most readers probably disagree with me, but, hey, we all have a right to waste our time in different ways. For me, I will find something else to occupy me during the next few weeks

Perhaps one of the best indicators of the direction of our society is how much we pay professional athletes and entertainers. Have you noticed how business people come under constant attack for the money they make, but we rarely hear a word about the compensation enjoyed by celebrities? And yet businesses create jobs for the rest of us and provide useful products and services rather than mere entertainment. I suspect, though, that celebrities and even many business people make far more money than they truly deserve, and I fear for their salvation because so many never seem satisfied with what they have. Don't they realize that their talents aren't self-generated but are gifts from God? Their praise and thanks should be directed toward Him and not toward themselves. And their energies should be directed not toward the pursuit of more money, but toward the pursuit of good. How did St. Paul put it?
"For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains." [1 Tim 6:10]

Excess is never attractive, nor is it good for the soul. (All you celebrity junkies might want to read this article on celebrity excess -- both sad and funny.)  I certainly don't envy the rich, whether they are business people or athletes or rock stars or actors or corrupt politicians. Money has never been a particularly strong motivator for me and certainly no sane person can possibly enjoy being envious. (I am far more susceptible to other of the deadly sins.) The trouble is, the extravagant lifestyles fueled by all this money can be very attractive to young people. This becomes evident when one observes the more talented college athletes as they enter the ranks of professionals. They seem to be afflicted with a sense of entitlement, an attitude nourished and encouraged by parents, coaches, and school administrators from the time their talent first manifested itself. At some colleges, and Penn State is just one obvious recent example, the standing of the school's athletic programs trumps most other considerations, even basic morality. Many of our society's newly discovered "values" have apparently migrated from the world of professional sports and entertainment to the rest of society. Of course, many of these values originated in the academic halls, so it is only fitting that they should ultimately infect the field house and the stadium.

Focusing only on the health of the college and university, I offer a most radical solution: the complete elimination of intercollegiate sports and their replacement with intramural athletic programs. This, of course, will never happen, not because of a love for sport, but because of a love for money. These programs are simply too profitable. And, as always, St. Paul is proven correct.

Lest I sound too pessimistic about our society, let me conclude with a more positive observation. It relates to one of the good things that came out of the tragedy in that Aurora, Colorado movie theater. The manly virtue of sacrifice above self is still alive within many Americans. A number of the men who lost their lives did so by intentionally placing their own bodies in the line of fire to protect the women they were with. God bless them and keep them. You see, it's the good people of this country, the hard-working folks we know and see every day, who live and keep the values we hold dear, who truly set this nation's standards. It's not the politicians or the baseball players or the movie actors. It is the people who give me hope, not the president.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Homily: 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Readings: Jer 23:1-6; Ps 23; Eph 2:13-18; Mk 6:30-34

Watching the news yesterday morning, I caught an interview of a young pastor named Darrel Wilmoth who had been in the theater in Colorado when the shooting began. Calling on his military training, he and several others took it upon themselves to treat many of the wounded with first aid and to help get them to ambulances. He mentioned that once they had taken care of the survivors’ physical needs, he realized there were a lot of unmet spiritual needs. He and several others moved from person to person, comforting them, asking if they could pray with them. Not a single person said, “No.”

Like so many in our world today, these distraught, confused people were like sheep without a shepherd, and this young, faith-filled pastor readily accepted his calling to be the presence of Jesus Christ in their midst, offering them the peace they needed and sought. During the interview he also remarked how all the experts were offering their opinions on TV, opinions as to the causes of all the carnage. As they tried to make sense out of what had happened, all they could provide was a kind of worldly understanding to others. But neither we nor the experts can understand such things, because they will never make sense. Referring to St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians, Pastor Wilmoth added,  
“We were promised not peace and understanding, but the peace that surpasses all understanding.” [See Phil 4:7]

This, brothers and sisters, is the peace that Jesus Christ gives us. We don’t need to understand why men do what they do because the peace of Jesus Christ surpasses all understanding; it transcends all the evil in the world. And so today, we should follow this young pastor’s example and pray for peace, not for peace as the world understands it, but for Christ’s peace, for peace in our hearts. This is the peace so sought after by the survivors and by the families of those who lost their lives. The need to turn to God in prayer was this pastor’s first inclination, and judging by his comments it  remains so today, days after his on-the-scene work as a shepherd was done.

In today’s Gospel passage from Mark we encounter the Apostles as they return to Jesus from their first mission. It was a mission of healing and teaching and preaching, and they were no doubt exhilarated by the experience. They had witnessed firsthand the power of God's Word, the power of Jesus' Name. But they were also hungry and exhausted, in need of rest, as well as physical and spiritual refreshment. They needed time alone, time to pray, time for peace.

Jesus, too, needed a break from the crowds who constantly pressed in on him, demanding his attention. Can you picture the scene? Listen again to the words of the Gospel:
"People were coming and going in great numbers, making it impossible for them to so much as eat." [Mk 6:31]
It must have been chaotic. To make matters worse, Jesus knew that his cousin, John the Baptist, had just been executed by Herod. This surely affected him deeply.

Yes, Jesus and the Apostles needed some time alone, a period of retreat, brief respite from the world. As Mark tells us,  
"So Jesus and the Apostles went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place." [Mk 6:32]
But that’s not the way it worked out, is it? The crowd figured out where they were going and arrived before them. And it was a huge crowd, over 5,000 people. Most of us would have been annoyed to have our plans disrupted that way. But not Jesus. Instead of telling them to go home, that He’d done enough for one day, He sees their need, places it above His own and that of the Apostles, and takes pity on them. For the crowd, too, needed that same physical and spiritual nourishment. Jesus provides food for their souls with His teaching, and food for their bodies with His miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes. In doing this, Jesus sends us all a message: If there’s no rest for Him, there can be little rest for His followers either.

For the Christian, the disciple of Christ, the needs of others must always outweigh his or her own. I think again of that young pastor in Aurora, Colorado. Suppressing his own need to get to safety, to escape the carnage and chaos and danger, he shepherds those in dire need of Christ’s peace.

How often do you and I place others’ needs above our own? Once a week? Once a day? That’s nice, but Jesus is telling us to do this always. You see, by virtue of our baptism, we all received a calling. Like the Apostles we’ve all been sent into the world on a mission. Indeed, that’s the very meaning of the word "apostle": one who is sent out. And like Jesus, we all have a certain amount of shepherding to do.

This doesn't mean we are all called to work in the foreign missions. For most of us, our mission is much closer to home; actually, it begins right in our homes. We can feed, clothe, and care for our children physically, but if they’re not nourished spiritually, if they’re given no Christian direction, they’ll lose their way and wander aimlessly through life without lasting purpose. And husbands and wives, do you know your primary mission is to help each other get to heaven? That’s right, all else is secondary. Husbands, shepherd your wives. Wives, shepherd your husbands.

How sad that so many people, the young and the not so young, people from nominally Christian homes, lead empty, self-centered lives devoted only to pleasure or the accumulation of material wealth. Is there no one to shepherd them? Perhaps even worse, we see people throughout the world, many of them Christians, seemingly motivated only by national or ethnic hatred. Where are the shepherds in their lives?

In today's second reading from Ephesians, St. Paul tells us explicitly that through the sacrifice of Christ, all people are brought near to God in a covenant of brotherhood. Listen again to his words as he describes how Christ destroys that which separates Jew and Gentile and brings peace:
"It is He who is our peace, and who made the two of us one by breaking down the barrier of hostility that kept us apart...reconciling both of us to God in one body through the cross which puts that enmity to death." [Eph 2:14-16]
Our mission extends beyond home and family. It extends to the workplace, to friendships, to those seemingly chance encounters with those in need.

In the first reading we heard Jeremiah tell of God's promise to send shepherds to His people, so they will no longer live in fear. It’s a promise fulfilled by the gospel, with the arrival among us of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the Son of the Living God.

Jesus calls on each of us to continue His work, to be shepherds of God's people. But being a good shepherd can be a hard line of business. And so He gives us a road map with the path clearly marked. We’re asked only to obey His commandments and to love -- to love Him with all our being and to love each other.

Loving God demands that we find a quiet spot in our lives where we can be alone with Him in prayer. Like Jesus and the Apostles, we sometimes need to refresh ourselves spiritually, to get away from the pressures that bear down on us, to listen to God's healing voice. If we allow Jesus to make His home in our hearts, He will give us the strength we need to cope with the challenges of life and the courage we need to accept our calling. He will give each of us a new heart, a heart filled with the Spirit of God.

Do this, brothers and sisters, and He’ll take care of the rest.

In the midst of a senseless, chaotic world, only Jesus Christ can give us peace, the only true peace, the peace that surpasses all understanding.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Rome, Catholicism and the Papacy

Taylor Marshall, a former Episcopal priest and now a Catholic, has written several wonderful books, chief among them The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of Catholic Christianity. He has just written another, soon to be published, which focuses on the the question of why Rome and not Jerusalem is the center of the Catholic Church.

This morning I came across a video of a recent interview with Dr. Marshall in which he addresses this very subject. Although it's almost an hour long, it's well worth listening to. I have included it below...


Dr. Marshall's blog, Canterbury Tales, is also worth a frequent check.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Photographic Fun

As some readers of this blog know, I'm an amateur (very amateur) photographer. It is a hobby I truly enjoy, and for a couple of reasons. First of all, photography permits me to capture and relive unique places, things, and moments in time. I simply enjoy preserving at least a glimpse of those things in our world that I find especially interesting and surprisingly beautiful. Photography allows me to stop time and enjoy these things again and again.

But photography also offers a kind of unexpected revelation, a surprising disclosure of detail or symmetry or color or light or contrast or beauty that was not fully grasped when the photo was taken. In other words, I especially enjoy being surprised by a photograph, when it seems to capture a moment and scene so differently or so much more completely than the reality I experienced when I took the photo.

Dad and his Leica in Germany
As with many of my traits and likes and dislikes, I seem to have inherited this interest in photography from my father. Like me, he always had a camera close by and the results of his six decades of picture taking are stacked on shelves here in my study -- thousands upon thousands of 35mm slides that I have been sorting through and scanning a few at a time for several years now. Of course, all of his photos were taken during the days of film, before the advent of digital photography. My goal, then, is to digitize his photographs and pass them on to his descendants. I'm especially interested in preserving the many photos he took at the end of World War II and during the subsequent occupation of Germany.

Dad always had the latest and greatest when it came to the things he enjoyed. He seemed to believe that one should never approach true interests hesitantly, but should jump in enthusiastically. I'm sure he would have loved digital photography and the tremendous freedom it offers the photographer. And, yes, I know there are still purists out there who use only film, but as digital technology continues to improve, I expect most will eventually make the transition.

For those of you who do no more than take occasional snapshots with your cell phone or point-and-shoot digital camera, I will give you a simple example of the capabilities of digital photography.

This afternoon, while going through some photos I took on a trip to Italy in 2010, I came across a picture taken of a portion of Siena's Piazza del Campo, one of the great medieval squares of Europe. The Campo is a large, oddly shaped square in the center of Siena in which the Palio, the city's famous annual horse races, are held. As Diane and I strolled along the edge of the piazza trying to choose a restaurant for lunch, I took a few photographs. I especially like one of these photos which depicts some of the locals and tourists enjoying the beautiful sunny afternoon following a rainy morning. Using Photoshop software, I gave the photo an "artsy" brush-stroke look, and printed it on my wide-format printer as an 11x14 color print. I will eventually print it in an even larger format on "canvas paper" to enhance the effect of a painting rather than a photograph. The doctored photo is below. Click on the image to enlarge it and you will better see what can be done quite simply with digital photography.


Siena's Piazza del Campo on a sunny afternoon
I also played with another photo taken on an earlier trip to Italy. This one is of a church in the Borgo district of Rome, adjacent to the Vatican. The Church, Santa Maria in Traspontina, has a beautiful old bell tower which I photographed. I thought the photo would be more dramatic in black and white so I used software to convert it and then printed it as a large 12x18 inch print. (See below)
Santa Maria in Traspontina (Rome)




Sunday, July 15, 2012

Homily: 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time


Readings: Am 7:12-15; Ps 85; Eph 1:3-14; Mk 6:7-13

I’ve always loved to travel. I suppose that’s why I spent all those years in the Navy. You remember the recruiting ads: “Join the Navy and see the world.” Well, I saw a good piece of it, before, during and after my Navy years. Actually, I think it’s hereditary. My father was the same way. He loved to travel as well. I suspect there’s some geographic gene in our DNA.

Of course, just because I enjoy traveling doesn’t mean I travel well. You see, for years I over-packed. I’d bring one, and sometimes two, of almost everything I owned. You just never know when you might need a second laptop computer, or a third travel mug, or a fourth camera. Going somewhere for a week? Better bring a dozen shirts. Hey, you might spill coffee at breakfast.  Going up north in mid-Winter. Don’t forget that pair of shorts in the event of global warming. And so, wherever we went, I’d end up lugging a humongous suitcase, along with a backpack full of electronic gadgets. Of course, I never even touched half of what I took with me.

This wasn’t a big problem when I was young. But now that I’m…not so young, it’s become an issue. Lugging heavy bags, even with their little wheels, is simply too much work for this aging body. In recent years, I‘ve learned how to pack light…well, lighter. And I’ve also discovered you can actually wash clothes away from home.

Given this personal history, you can imagine what I thought when I first read Jesus’ instructions to his disciples as they set out on their missionary journey. I try to imagine what Jesus would have said to me – for example, before Diane and I set off on our last pilgrimage to Rome a couple of years ago lugging our huge suitcases.

He’d probably say pretty much what He said to the disciples: “No food. No sack. No money…not a second tunic.” I suppose those Little Debbies and Mounds Bars in my backpack count as food? That mammoth suitcase probably counts as a sack. And all those shirts, and trousers, and jeans, and shorts, and jackets…I suppose they all fall into the tunic category. Then there’s the money, the credit cards, the debit card, the cash…

Yes, I take entirely too much of everything when I travel, but it’s still hard to imagine bringing only what Jesus asked the Twelve to bring on their mission.  It seems rather limiting, at least for us today. We’ve become so very attached to our material possessions – all our useful little tools: our digital cameras, our cell phones and iPods, our Nooks and Kindles…all the things we just can’t do without. So caught up in the stuff of our own time, we tend to hear this Gospel passage as I did – thinking only of that which Jesus tells the Apostles to leave behind. No food, no money, no sack…well, okay, but, you know, Jesus, I really need my iPad.

Perhaps, though, we should be focusing on something else. Maybe the real message is to consider what the Apostles can take with them. Jesus mentioned only two things. Do you remember what they were?

A walking stick and sandals – two things that provide support – physical, material support – for the journey they are undertaking. He sends them out with very little so they can avoid the distractions that personal possessions generate and learn to trust in God.

But what else do they take with them? Why, they take each other. That’s right. Jesus doesn’t send them out alone. He sends them out in pairs. He sends them out two-by-two, as companions, so they must rely on each other and not on things. Together they can help each other remain focused on the purpose of their mission: to do what Jesus does – to teach everyone they encounter about the Gospel, the Good News of the Kingdom, to preach repentance, and to heal.

Jesus knows the Apostles will sometimes encounter hostility instead of hospitality, closed minds instead of open hearts. Sometimes they will have to shake the dust of a place off those sandals they wear. Yes, they’re sent in pairs so they can remind each other that the mission is God’s mission not theirs, that it’s God’s Kingdom, not theirs, that it’s God’s Word, not theirs, that it’s God’s power, not theirs.

And when that power appears, when the healings and exorcisms and the Spirit-filled preaching begin to go to one’s head, there will always be another standing right behind him to tap him on the shoulder -- to remind him of the truth, to remind him of the source of that power, and to remind him of his own weakness.

Yes, Jesus sent the Twelve out in twos so that each could remind the other where he came from. And that awareness, of one’s roots, of one’s true identity, is a sign of an authentic prophet. God’s prophets, his messengers, always know and accept their roots.

Just look at Amos, the prophet of our first reading. He certainly had no delusions of grandeur. I am a sheep herder, a pruner of sycamore trees, he tells the corrupt leaders of Israel. It’s not my word I bring to you. It’s God Word. Don’t listen to me because of who I am. I do what I do because God told me to. Listen to me because of who God is.

In the same way, Paul tells the Ephesians that he does what he does, he preaches God’s Word simply because he was chosen to do so. He did not merit this favor. It was God’s choice. The true prophets, the apostles, they all simply mirror the humility of Jesus Himself.

Jesus, the Son of God, whose roots ran as deep as creation itself; and Jesus, as Son of Man, who in His prophetic role, was rooted soundly in the will of the Father. Amos and Paul, like Jesus, understood their calling, their mission. Each knew where he came from and why he was sent.

As simple travelers, with few possessions, journeying only with a companion, the disciples too would keep that mission, that call, in mind. “Why are we doing this?” one might ask the other. “Because Jesus told us to” the other would likely respond.

How often do we ever ask that question? Or are we too busy stuffing our suitcases, the trunks of our cars, and our homes with all those possessions. Do we realize we’re not just hanging out in this life, but that we’re on a journey? Are we aware that not only has God given us companions on that journey, but we’re also companions to others?

Brothers and sisters, this journey of ours is a mission, one assigned to us by Jesus Himself – a mission to preach the Good News and to heal -- to take God's love to others. Have you done any preaching and healing lately? Well, why not? It’s the mission you’ve been given.

A few moments from now, gathered here around this altar, we will come together and share the Bread of Life with one another. Like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, let us be companions of the Lord -- companions, a word whose Latin roots mean “with bread.” For those disciples walked that road to Emmaus with Jesus, with the true Bread from heaven, with the Bread of Life.

Let us join them in this companionship, so that we too may recognize the Lord in the Breaking of the Bread and take up the calling He has for each one of us.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Homily: Wednesday, 14th Week in Ordinary Time

Readings: Hos 10:1-3,7-8,12 • Psalm 80 • Mt 10:1-7

I wonder how many of us really know and experience the power of the gospel, the power of God’s kingdom? In the Lord's Prayer we pray that God will reign in our lives and in our world: "Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." When Jesus preached God's kingdom His preaching was accompanied by signs and wonders. That’s the power of God’s word, the power of the kingdom he came to announce. “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” – words equally relevant today.

As Christians we all strive to get to heaven, but if we truly know the love and mercy of Jesus Christ, we already possess heaven in our hearts! Do you believe that? Do I believe it? Do we believe in the power of God's kingdom? …the power manifested when Jesus commissioned his disciples to preach God's word and bring his healing power to the sinner, to the weary and oppressed.

Jesus Sends the Twelve to Preach, Heal and Cast Out Demons
Jesus’ choice of the twelve apostles shows us a characteristic feature of God's work: God loves to choose ordinary folks. The apostles were neither rich nor famous. They weren’t professional religious people like the scribes and Pharisees. They were common, ordinary men, who lived ordinary lives. They had no special education or social advantages.

Unworthiness, non-achievement, weakness, obscurity, even potential betrayal – these are the qualities the Lord works with as He shapes those whom He calls. He chose these men, not for who they were, but for what they could become through Him, through the power of the Kingdom.

As we hear their names listed in the Gospel we’re struck by the earthy reality of these men – by the absence of any traits that might remotely set them apart from the common run of humanity. No titles, no connections, no fame…they were eminent nobodies. All we hear are their names, along with a scattering of ordinary details – oh, yes, and Judas’ shameful deed of betrayal.

The list begins with Peter, the repentant traitor, and ends with Judas, the unrepentant traitor. And in between we get just enough to let us know these twelve men actually lived. Yes, they lived in the everyday history of common people, not the history of historians. And beyond that…nothing.

Oh, they were all Jews; but the only other thing the 12 had in common was their call by Jesus. And it’s this calling that communicates power and vision and makes them into new men.

Up until this point in the Gospel it’s been only Jesus who teaches and heals; but now, His apostles will carry out His mission for Him.

It’s from these men that the Catholic Church throughout the world originates. Out of this simplicity, this humble seed, the Church’s roots are formed…its fruit ripened. The arrival of the Kingdom is inseparable from Christ’s establishment of the Church, for the apostles are the nucleus of the infant Church.

Oh, yes, there’s one other thing the 12 have in common: weakness. They’re sinners called from among sinners, broken men from among broken men, made different only by the power of God’s divine call. Jesus chose 12 weak, sinful men to form and lead His Church –12 ordinary men who would do God’s work extraordinarily well. 

When God calls us to serve – and He does call us, each of us, to serve Him by serving His people -- we must never think we have nothing to offer. When God calls us, He takes our meager abilities, He shares His power with us, and He uses us for greatness in his Kingdom, for His glory.

And then we can pray: “Lord, you chose me to be your disciple. Take and use me, in my weakness, in my ordinariness; take what I am, Lord, and mold me into what You want, for the glory of Your name.”



God Bless America

For those of you who agree with me that socialism is totally incompatible with the exercise of our freedoms as enumerated in the Constitution, particularly freedom of religion, here's a video of Fr. Andrew Kemberling, pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in Centennial, CO. Fr. Andrew was asked to deliver the invocation at the 2012 Colorado Republican State Assembly and Convention.



Monday, July 9, 2012

Make Disciples of All Nations


Back in my grade school days, my favorite subject was geography. By the time I was ten years old, I had an extensive collection of maps. Some of these I had purchased, but most had been liberated from my father's National Geographic magazines. I found our strange and varied world to be a fascinating place: the continents, the oceans and seas, the rivers that stretched for thousands of miles, the deserts and mountain ranges, and all those countries and cities with the unpronounceable names. It all captivated me. I would pore over those maps for hours, studying them and trying to visualize the distant places represented by the names and markings before me.

In those days, my New England family had already moved to New York, lived in the rural Florida panhandle for a year, spent another year in Europe, and traveled extensively throughout the eastern U. S. And everywhere we went my maps were my companions. Later on, in my teens, I gravitated to ham radio, a hobby that allowed me to reach out and figuratively touch people from around the globe. And before entering the Naval Academy at Annapolis, I studied for a year at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. It would seem I was destined to travel.

I suspect this interest in things geographical was partly hereditary, the result of a geographic gene shared with my late father, John McCarthy. Indeed, one long wall of the family room in his Cape Cod home was completely covered by a huge map of the world, and a two-foot diameter globe was displayed prominently in the living room. But Dad was no armchair traveler; he truly enjoyed seeing the world and meeting its people, and did so frequently. I think the only thing he enjoyed more was returning home. I am much the same.

I've traveled extensively over the course of my life, much of it thanks to the United States Navy and my subsequent business activity. I have no idea how many countries I've visited over the years, but adding to the list is not important to me. I can accept that there are many places I've yet to see and will likely never see. My future plans are not guided by any "bucket list", but are formed largely by happenstance.

All of this came to mind last evening when I stumbled across an article about the Catholic Church in Mongolia, a place I have never visited and surely never will. Mongolia is one of those ultra-exotic locales reminiscent of the old Terry and the Pirates comic strip I read religiously as a boy. (If you're under 60, you won't know what I'm talking about.) Just the name of the place conjures up what I suppose is a stereotypical image in my mind's eye: fierce descendents of Genghis Khan, mounted on their horses and galloping across the vast Asian steppe. And a country with a capital named Ulan Bator by definition must be exotic.

Rural Mongolia hasn't changed much
Of course, those images don't reflect much of today's Mongolia, which is moving rapidly into the 21st century. Although it's a fairly large country, about the same size as Alaska, Mongolia is also the most sparsely populated country in the world, with nearly half of its population living in the capital city. The rest live in its vast rural areas. While the country suffered under the totalitarian and atheistic rule of the Communist Party for almost 60 years, like many other formerly communist nations, it experienced its own democratic transformation in the early 1990s. Not only did this lead to the development of a market economy, but it also offered a degree of religious freedom to the people.

The first Catholic mission to Mongolia opened in 1992 when the apostolic nuncio to Korea arrived with two brothers of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Today, twenty years later, there are 64 Catholic missionaries from 18 countries in Mongolia. The Church has already set up a technical training center and this month a Korean priest is opening a medical clinic for the poor outside Ulan Bator. Happily, one Mongolian has already been ordained a priest and there are two Mongolian men studying for the priesthood in a seminary in Korea.

Today there are less than 1,000 Catholics in the country, served by three churches, all in Ulan Bator. One of these is the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul which provides a spiritual home for Mongolia's only bishop. Click here for more info: Catholic Church in Mongolia.

Faces of young Catholic girls of Mongolia

How many other nations in the world are like Mongolia, where Jesus Christ is unknown to the vast majority of the people and the Word of God has hardly been preached? Probably more than we would guess. In the early 1970s, while visiting Taiwan, I met a young Taiwanese university student at a small restaurant. Excited about being able to practice his English, he asked if we could share a table while we ate lunch. I agreed and we talked for over an hour on a variety of topics. At one point, after I had brought up religion, he said he was an atheist. When I asked if he knew anything about Jesus Christ, he stated he had never heard of him. "Who was he?", he asked. I told him and before we separated gave him the pocket New Testament I used to carry with me. "It will help you with your English," I explained. Just that morning I had been reading Matthew's Gospel and had underlined its final verses, Jesus' great commission to His disciples. I've often wondered if that young student read those versus and thought about them in light of our brief time together:

"All power 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, until the end of the age.” [Mt 28:18-20] 

Since the Lord wants us to "make disciples of all nations", I've always thought He'll probably hold off on His Second Coming until after we've preached the Good News to all those nations. After all, if He tells us to do something, but then doesn't give us time to finish the job...well, that just doesn't seem very God-like. Of course, like everyone else, I don't know the mind of God, nor do I know any more about His plan for salvation that what He's already revealed to us. So it probably behooves us not to waste a lot of time as we do all that disciple-making throughout the world. God might actually permit us to determine the exact timing of "the end of the age" based on the scope of our evangelizing activity. In other words, we should get out the maps and get to work.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Homily: 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Readings: Ezk 2:2-5; 2 Cor 12:7-10; Mk 6:1-6

Today’s readings are really about three groups of people: the Jews who rejected God’s Word preached to them by the prophet Ezekiel; the people of Nazareth, Jesus’ home town, who rejected God’s Word in the flesh; and lastly, us, the people of today. And perhaps not so obviously, these readings are also about evil.

Evil is a very strange commodity. Sometimes it’s so evident, so blatant, that you can actually feel its presence. Let me give you an example from my own experience.

In 1951, not long after the end of World War II, my family lived in Germany where my father was stationed. Instead of living in Army housing, he felt we should experience the local culture, and so we lived on the economy and went to local German schools. It was a remarkable experience for my brother and me. As a family we also took many short trips to different parts of the country, where I saw the unbelievable devastation that Hitler had brought to his own people, not to mention the rest of Europe.

On one of those trips we visited Dachau, one of the infamous death camps. There I saw first-hand the mass graves, the ovens, the tools of death, all the implements devised by men for only one purpose, to murder the innocents among them. Although it was over 60 years ago, I remember that day as though it were yesterday. The evil, the unbelievable cruelties that had taken place there only a few short years before, was so palpable, so real, I could literally feel it. Evil like that is hard to ignore, even though, at the time, many did just that.

But evil isn’t always so obvious. It often shows up looking clean and shiny, well-scrubbed and well dressed. It can look and sound very reasonable, always ready with a compliment, saying all the right things…and yet beneath the veneer, there is nothing, only misery and despair. Evil rationalizes itself with fine-sounding words and ultimately entraps those who fail to reject it.

As adults we can’t be forced to become ensnared by an evil power like in the horror movies…no, we set the trap ourselves. We make our own choices.

It’s not their sins that characterize those guilty of the greatest evils – for everyone is a sinner – rather it’s the persistence and consistency of their sins. It’s their willingness to choose evil over good, and to do so again and again. You see, the central defect of evil isn’t the sin itself, but the refusal to acknowledge it as sin.

We see this in today’s reading from Mark’s Gospel. Jesus has returned to his hometown of Nazareth, where He preaches in the local synagogue. Those who hear Him have to make a choice, a choice between good and evil…and they make the wrong choice. They reject goodness. Their choice, like so many of the choices we make, stemmed from pride. They simply couldn’t believe that one of their own, someone they had known all their lives, could be so special.

How did they put it? “Is He not the carpenter, the son of Mary…?” How could this common man, this laborer, this man to whom many of them were related…how could He have anything worthwhile to say?

Their rejection of Jesus followed directly from Jesus’ faith and commitment. It was easier for them – as it is for us – to be negative rather than positive. Easier to be destructive rather than creative. Easier, in short, to confuse good with evil.

Edmund Burke summed it up pretty well when he said, that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Like so many people today, the people of Nazareth didn’t want to hear the truth, especially when the truth hurt. For that’s what a prophet does: he speaks the truth. And all too often the truth reminds us of our failings and weaknesses. A prophet’s job is to upset people. His job is to challenge and rebuke people. His job is to demands that they change, that they do more than nothing. Jesus’ neighbors, listening to him in the synagogue, became like their ancestors to whom God had sent the prophet Ezekiel. With stern faces and hardened hearts, they rejected God’s prophet, they rejected God’s Word.

But this time it wasn’t God’s Word spoken by a prophet that they rejected. This time it was Jesus, the Word of God personified…Jesus, much more than a prophet… Jesus, the Son of God Himself, who stood in their midst. He is the Truth.

Had we been there, would you and I have rejected Him as well? Perhaps the better question is: do we reject Him today? The truth? Jesus is still with us. He speaks to us through His Word, read to us daily at Mass. He instructs us through the teachings of the Church. He feeds us with His precious Body and Blood in the Eucharist, entering into our very being, calling us to constant conversion through the “inexpressible groanings” of the Holy Spirit.

And yet, how often do we listen and act on what we hear? Do we fear the change Jesus demands of us and prefer instead to do nothing? Do we excuse ourselves from difficult teaching? Do we rationalize our acceptance of evil, because …well, these are complicated and controversial issues?

Pope John Paul II, one of the great prophets of our time, warned us frequently about the acceptance of a culture of death, the same kind of culture that resulted in a place like Dachau. And yet many of us choose to ignore the warnings.

The right to choose, we are told, is more important that the right to life. Yes, the right to choose death, the right to choose evil. Assisted suicide and euthanasia aren’t really all that bad. Yes, the culture tells us, these are quality of life issues. Capital punishment? Don’t listen to the Church. It’s a secular issue, a law and order issue. It has nothing to do with morality.

Ah, yes, evil can come to the table all dressed up, with fine manners, and sound so civilized, so very reasonable.

The culture condemns the homeless and despises those suffering from AIDS or enslaved by addictions. They brought it on themselves didn’t they? Why should we help them? The culture of death protests loudly when the Church addresses the ills and immorality of society.

It tells the Church that religious freedom is defined not by God but by the state. It tells the Church to keep its religion quiet. Stay out of the public square. Stay out of politics, it says. Stick to your prayers and your Masses. Stay inside the walls of your church.

They seem to believe we live in two worlds, one religious and one secular. What a bizarre notion!  No, brothers and sisters, we live in one world, God’s world. He created it, and He’s the One in charge, not us.

We have only two choices. We can accept Jesus Christ and His Truth, or we can reject Him. There is no middle ground, no seemingly safe place where we can straddle both sides and remain uncommitted.

A few moments ago, we joined together to sing the words of the psalmist, “Our eyes are fixed on the Lord.” This is one of the things that differentiates good from evil.

Are our eyes fixed on the Lord? Or like the people who rejected Ezekiel and Jesus are we fixed on other things?

Let’s pray today that, like Paul in today’s 2nd reading, we may find strength in our weakness. Pray for goodness, brothers and sisters. Pray that God will make us as courageous as Ezekiel to speak His word to our world, even when the world seems unwilling to listen.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Homily: Independence Day - Wednesday, 13th Week of Ordinary Time

Readings: Amos 5:14-15, 21-24; Ps 50; Mt 8:28-34
_________________

How blessed we are to be Americans!

223 years ago, our Constitution, drafted by our founders and ratified by the states, went into effect. In the first ten amendments to that Constitution, what we call our Bill of Rights, the God-given rights of the people were protected from the government. That’s right; the Bill of Rights limits the government, not the people. It protects us from our government.

And to ensure future generations understood its importance, the very first of the rights guaranteed by the founders was the right of religious freedom. The First Amendment begins with the words:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
And so, we have the right to worship freely without the threat of government interference.

Yes, how blessed we are to be Americans!

And how fitting, too, that today we should hear this Gospel reading from Matthew as we celebrate our independence, including our nation’s commitment to religious freedom. But before we touch on the issues that face us today, let’s first look at Matthew’s Gospel.

This visit by Jesus to the land of the Gadarenes is truly a remarkable incident, a unique event in His public ministry. Jesus, who spent virtually all of His public life among the Jews, does something very different. He crosses the Sea of Galilee and enters the province of Gadara, a place populated largely by pagans. Gadara is depicted as a district especially under the sway of the Evil One – God’s name is not invoked there, His law is not obeyed – and so we shouldn’t be surprised to find demoniacs dwelling there in their natural habitat.

It must have been a disturbing visit for the disciples, as evidenced by the fact that we hear nothing from them. They were accustomed to people coming to Jesus for healing and instruction and forgiveness. Indeed only moments before, on the way across the Sea, the disciples themselves had begged Jesus to save them from the freak storm that had arisen. Yes, they had heard many people pleading with Jesus for help; and had even
uttered some of those pleas themselves…
Heal my servant, Master…

Lord, that I might see…

Lord, save us, we are perishing…
How different were these cries for help from the cries they heard this day in this strange place…
What have you to do with us, Son of God?
"What have you to do with us, Son of God?"
What a remarkable question these demons ask. How darkly urgent is their need to separate themselves from Jesus. And how do they do it? By denouncing him as the Son of God! Imagine that! Yes, in spitting out their hatred, their poison, they can do nothing but proclaim the truth. We sense some tiny remnant of goodness in their nature, but one that is exclusively intellectual. They know who Jesus is. But knowledge isn’t love.

Through their own choice they’ve totally disfigured the beauty of their souls, a beauty created in the beginning by God. Now, no beauty remains. No moral order remains. And so this acknowledgment of Jesus’ identity escapes from them, just as everything else does, with destructive violence.
What have you to do with us?
Yes, indeed, what can the spirit of evil have in common with the Son of God? In a sense, this question, what have we in common, is the same question the centurion asked of Jesus when he uttered, “Lord I am not worthy…” But for the demons it’s not a matter of unworthiness, but rather a question filled with hollow pride:
“How dare you come to us. Don’t you, Son of God, have better things to do? Leave us alone.”
You see, the demons can lie to everyone except to God.
“Have you come here to torment us before the appointed time?”
These demons can’t believe that Jesus has entered this place among the tombs of the dead where evil believed itself safe from God’s Word. But now…now they know that Jesus’ redeeming work knows no boundaries. The Word of God must spread throughout the earth, and no place is exempt. They know, too, that their hold over a portion of humanity is only temporary, for they scream at Jesus, reproaching him for coming before the kairos, before the appointed season of definitive judgment and the expulsion of the forces of evil.

How odd. While they clearly know who Jesus is, and hate him for it, they appear pathetically misinformed about the extent of their authority. And so they resign themselves to being cast out. But unlike the centurion who saw his servant’s illness as an evil that needed Jesus’ healing intervention, these demons, having made evil the cause of their very being, find only torment in their Healer. Rather than surrender to Jesus’ healing presence, they beg Jesus to send them into a herd of pigs – a choice that reveals their true condition.

Brothers and sisters, Jesus offers each one of us healing and life. There is just one other choice, and it leads only to death.

How humiliating this must have been for Satan. Satan, the pure spirit, is routed by the mere presence of this Divine Person who embraces the weakness of our human physical and psychological nature. And Satan still lurks about seeking souls who will admit him. But at the same time, in the presence of Jesus Christ, he is powerless. When Jesus is present, in our individual souls, in our families, in our parish, in our community, in our nation, Satan has no power. He can do nothing.

But when a people and a nation turn away from Jesus Christ, when a people decides that the presence of God is an embarrassment, that the name of God is an insult to their intelligence and freedom…then they create a vacuum that Satan is only too ready to fill.

For most of its history our nation turned openly and willingly to God for help and guidance. “In God we trust” is still embossed on our currency. And we still pledge ourselves as “one nation, under God.” But sadly, although religious freedom is a fundamental human right, one that comes not from man but from God, much of recorded history is the story of men trying to deny it, to take it away.

Throughout the history of our own country many have sacrificed their lives so you and I can reap the benefits of religious freedom and the other rights enumerated in our Constitution. But even today, these rights are threatened, and sadly by our own federal government. The Department of Health and Human Services has mandated that the private health care plans of Catholic institutions must cover sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception. And so the Church – and brothers and sisters, that’s you and me – faces a severe attack on our religious liberty by forcing us to pay for that which violates our deepest religious and moral convictions. This mandate, then, first and foremost, is an attack on religious freedom.

Like those who came before us and sacrificed so much to guarantee the freedom that you and I take for granted, we too are called to defend these rights. As the prophet Amos told the people of Israel in our first reading: “Seek good and not evil, that you may live… let justice prevail.” God expects us to act, brothers and sisters, so justice will prevail!

You and I may think we’re not important enough for our voices to be heard, but that’s simply not true.  Just consider how God has called on the weak and the obscure to be His messengers.

Consider Amos, the simple sheep herder of our first reading, the pruner of sycamore trees, and how he bravely confronts the hypocritical and unjust leaders of Israel.

Isaiah and Jeremiah, both called from the womb to be God’s great prophets.

David, the young shepherd, raised up by God to be King of his people.

John the Baptist, dwelling in the desert, but destined from the moment of creation to be the herald of Jesus Christ.

Brothers and sisters, we too are called by God, just as Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah, David and John were called from obscurity to take God’s word to the world. Like that tiny mustard seed in the Gospel, wondrous things can come from even the smallest voice. Today, as we face this challenge to the most fundamental of our rights, you and I are that seed. We must speak up. We must defend our right to religious freedom, in both the public square and the ballot box. Doing so is a responsibility, an obligation that derives not only from our citizenship, but even more so from our faith.

Satan would love to turn us into another land of the Gadarenes, but believe me, that will not happen if we, as the People of God, as the Body of Christ, as a nation of free men and women, turn always to Jesus Christ as our sole guide, as our Lord and Savior.

Yes, how blessed we are to be Americans.

Let us pray that our children and grandchildren will always be able to say those same words.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Religious Persecution, American Style


A few days ago, a parishioner corralled me after Mass complaining about the U. S. Bishops' "Fortnight for Freedom", the two-week time of prayer and awareness leading up to tomorrow, Independence Day. He thought it was all overblown and didn't see the Department of Health and Human Services' mandate as a "very big deal". This mandate, requiring Catholic institutions to include and pay for abortifacients, contraception and sterilization in their health care plans, is more than a "big deal"; it's a huge deal. 

What I actually said to this particular parishioner need not be repeated here. My fear, though, is that far too many Catholics think just as he does. But this is not a "Catholic" issue. It's an issue of religious freedom affecting all Americans, something that should disturb all people of faith. Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago, clearly described what's at stake:
"This is the first time in the history of the United States that a presidential administration has purposely tried to interfere in the internal working of the Catholic Church, playing one group off against another for political gain. What isn’t always understood is that the Bishops of the Church make no attempt to speak for all Catholics; they never have. The Bishops speak for the Catholic and apostolic faith, and those who hold that faith gather around them. Others disperse." [See his comments here.]
Cardinal Francis George
As faithful Catholics we are truly blessed that our bishops have shown the courage and wisdom to rise up and confront this threat publicly. We must "gather around them." Some of us believe it's been a long time coming, something that should have been addressed years ago. For decades now the faithful have been scandalized by nominally Catholic politicians who love to show off their ashes on Ash Wednesday but consistently join with the determined secularists in their attacks on the Church and its teachings. We must pray for these politicians, storming heaven with pleas for their conversion. But at the same time we must not abdicate our responsibility as citizens. In the United States "We the People" are sovereign, not the president, not the congress, and not the courts. When the government we put in place begins to trample on the rights of the people, it's time to elect a new government, one that will restore and respect those rights. This we can do on November 6th.

And the threat is by no means "overblown." Our republic has withstood much in its long history, but its strength and longevity rest on one thing: respect for the Constitution. Once that respect begins to diminish -- and far too many of today's politicians openly question the value and the values of that document -- things can change very quickly. This was perhaps best predicted by Cardinal George when in 2010, after the passage of legislation that enabled same-sex civil unions in Illinois, he stated in all seriousness:
"I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die in the public square.”
Can't happen here? Not in the good ol' USA? Believe me, it can, and quite likely will unless we accept our responsibility to fight it openly in the public square. Subtle and not so subtle persecution of Christians is already well advanced in much of Western Europe, and even in Canada, our northern neighbor. And in Asia and Africa the persecution is not at all subtle, but is creating martyrs to the faith almost daily. There's no reason to believe the United States is somehow immune to these forces. [Read more here.]

Of one thing we can be certain: Satan is behind it. The Father of Lies loves to confuse, to obstruct, to destroy, to make his lies seem so very believable and reasonable. Satan, of course, is creation's greatest loser and all his machinations will ultimately lead to nothing. But in the meantime, he can certainly cause much chaos and distress, and lead many to eternal death rather than the eternal life God offers them. [More here.]

We must join our bishops as they fight for the Church established by Christ Himself. If we don't...well, get ready for the coming persecution.