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Archive for the ‘Religious Instruction’ Category

I am slowly deciphering some of the written materials left by the late Msgr. William J. Awalt. For review and comments, they are being posted at my BLOGGER PRIEST site.

http://bloggerpriest.com/category/awalt-papers/

Msgr. Awalt was the pastor of St. Ann’s Church in NW Washington , DC for just over 30 years, retiring in the year 2000. I was honored to preach at the Mass celebrating his 60th anniversary as a priest in 2007. His pastorate was marked by a deep devotion to the Eucharist and a never-ending preoccupation with preaching the Gospel and teaching the Catholic faith.

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Recently I entered into a heated discussion with Dennis on an assortment of topics. He is very negative to the Catholic faith. PLEASE NOTE that it is an apologetical dialogue that might make some readers uncomfortable.

To easily follow the discussion, it has been posted to the BLOGGER PRIEST Blog.

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Why Does the Fire Go Out?

People have their reasons, but there is no good reason for leaving the Church.  The majority in the area where I reside are probably Baptist and/or Evangelical.  Some of these communities target Catholics and many Catholics marry non-Catholics.  Not understanding their own tradition, many Catholics are inordinately moved by the music and preaching in Protestant churches.  Catholic reformed rituals might not be regarded as very entertaining.  Much of the music we sing is criticized as trite and unmoving.  When we borrow Protestant hymns or sing Gospel, it is usually a pale imitation of what our separated brethren have to offer.  Music enshrines preaching.  Particularly in the African-American community, services can go hours.  The importance of the minister is measured by his musicality and his effectiveness as a preacher.  Our gravity is upon the formulae of liturgy, not upon preaching. 

Masolino_Peter_Preaching2

Preachers and Priests, No Comparison?

Many priests were trained to keep homilies or sermons to ten minutes or less.  That is about the length of two or three MTV videos.  Time-wise, it cannot compare to the formation of the media or to the teaching sermons of our separated-brethren.  I knew one old man who went to Mass on Saturday night and to his wife’s Baptist church on Sunday.  He told me that he went to Mass for Holy Communion and to the Protestant church for good preaching.  This is a rather sad state of affairs.  Are we fully feeding our people?  Preaching outside the Catholic Church may be dynamic and meaningful; however, it is also fraught with religious error.

Sermons or Homilies?

I recall from preaching seminars that the priest should offer a homily based upon the Scriptures of the day.  This focus was understandable but I found the focus too narrow and absolutist.  The priest or deacon can preach upon the readings, the liturgical prayers themselves, upon the feast or memorial, or upon what his people (at that time and place) need to hear.  I had a vigorous dispute with a liturgist when I suggested catechetical sermons. It was and remains a contention of mine that many people stray to other faith communities because they really do not understand Catholicism and the full significance of the Eucharist.

Can Father Talk Too Long?

How long should the priest or deacon preach?  This depends upon many factors:

1.   What is the type of liturgy?

2.   What has to be said to make the message worthwhile?

3.   What is the capacity in patience and in comprehension of the listeners?

Given that Catholic sermons are usually shorter than Protestant counterparts, the priest might be able to amplify his instruction by linking his sermons from week to week.  He can also use the parish bulletin, special adult education and bible study, and invite people to use the cycle of readings themselves with missals they can take home.  If people look at the readings before Mass, their experience will not be cold when the priest or deacon speaks about them.  Instead of merely thinking about what Protestants have that we don’t, let us utilize our own strengths, the missal and the cycle of predetermined readings. 

Catholics might also do well to getting used to longer liturgies.  Of course, this runs counter to the Roman Rite tradition, known for being curter and more to the point than Eastern Rite liturgies and certain Evangelical Protestant services.  There is a basic dilemma with longer sermons, and that is the balance and rhythm of the Mass.  A long homily and a short Eucharistic prayer seems to switch the gravity away from the sacrament to the Word which is intended to dispose us for the sacrifice and Holy Communion.

I am concerning myself essentially with the Sunday homily.  Given work concerns and strained time issues, weekday Masses would probably have to remain little more than basic exhortations.  Such exhortations are similar to aspirations:  Jesus, Mary, Joseph save souls!  Do good and avoid evil!  Keep faith and hope alive!  Lord, have mercy on us!  God will not abandon you!

Messages Should Comfort and Challenge

Homilies more strictly revolve the Readings; however, sermons can touch upon all sorts of relevant topics.  Sermons might be moral exhortations, catechetical moments, inspiration rhetoric and stories, etc.  However, they should always connect the lesson, whatever the source, to the lives of the people listening.  The congregation should not be passive to the preaching but actively engaged.  A topic is explored, the message is ordered for coherence, examples or illustrations are made, and there is the immediate appliance.

The words used in preaching vary upon the setting.  When the clergyman marries a couple, he speaks about the joy and hopes of the couple.  He might also challenge them to keep the marital act free from the corruption of lust and artificial contraception.  However, many Catholic ministers are afraid to rock the boat.  When a priest or deacon officiates at a funeral, his words emphasize the consolations of faith to those who mourn, the promises of Jesus our gentle shepherd in regard to eternal life, and the need to go on with our lives.  Again, many Catholic ministers are afraid of the conflict that comes with challenging the congregation to see the death as a warning about their own mortality and the need to reform before it is too late.  Even evil men are temporarily canonized and little is said about Purgatory.  A number in the pews no longer even believe in Hell.  Sunday homilies are often pampering and grossly approving because many clergy are afraid of alienating the numbers in the pews and depleting the money gathered into collection baskets. 

Need for Courage and Trusting Providence

I knew a priest in the South who tried to integrate the two churches he pastured, one white and the other black.  White parishioners complained to the bishop and the man found himself stripped of his parish, reprimanded for making trouble, and reassigned to a teaching position in a college far away.  Decades later he was still not allowed to return to parish ministry.  But God writes straight with our crooked lines.  This priest ended up teaching seminarians.  He inspired another generation of men in ministry to struggle for social justice. 

How often have we heard certain priests speak about artificial contraception, abortion, divorce and remarriage, or even about fornication and cohabitation?  Some men in ministry are afraid.  But what chance do God’s people have when their shepherds are passive and fearful?  The late Pope John Paul II echoed our Lord’s words of wisdom, “Be not afraid.”

It may be that the priest shortage and the clergy scandals have drained the energy resources and joy of our priests.  This needs to be remedied.  The core message of the Gospel is not exhausted or angry.  Priests who show enthusiasm or excitement about the Catholic faith and Gospel are the most effective.  It is also a mentality which breeds vocations.  Young men do not want to join a confraternity of tired old men who only go on because of cold duty and obligation.  We have to be on fire with the faith if we want those in the pews to ignite!  It is very hard for a priest to give what he does not have.  God’s servants should be so in love with God that this love spills over in their service of others.  Preaching should reflect a life of prayer and a drive to save souls!

The preaching should move God’s people to greater faith and acts of service to our Lord and neighbor.  It assists everyone to better understand the Eucharist and disposes us to receive the Blessed Sacrament.  We take what we have been given in Word and sacrament as we go out in mission to the world around us.

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I have long been partial to the analogy of the mind and heart.  God knows himself.  What God knows is infinite and perfect.  While we have fragmented ideas and use many words to express ourselves, God is simple.  God has only one idea or one Word which includes all that is.  He writes his Word upon human flesh.  God becomes Man.  The Father or First Person generates from all eternity the Son or Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.  Between the Father and the Son is infinite goodwill or Love.  That which is infinite is by definition divine.  God is Love.  The personified Love generated from all eternity between the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit.  God in Jesus Christ becomes a man so that men might share in the divinity, by grace and the restoration of that likeness forfeited by sin.  God invites us to participate in his interior life.  Making us temples of the Holy Spirit and new Christs, we are invited to share in his Love.  The Trinity is our true and final home.  The Trinity is very much heaven.  The children of God will live within the Trinity forever.  I love such reasoning.  It also falls far short.  The mystery remains.  Finite creatures cannot exhaust the truth about an infinite God.  We can only scratch at the surface.  The Trinity remains what it, or rather, he is, regardless of our participation.  God is whole and complete in himself.  He does not need us.  There was no necessity or compulsion to creation.  He did not have to save us.  He does so, anyway.  Why does God reveal himself, by his fingerprints in creation and by his Son who has entered human history as the Trinity?  God wants to establish a relationship with us.  He takes the initiative.  God always takes the first step.  God reveals himself because he wants us to KNOW and to LOVE him.  And, even in this return operation or response we find traces of the Trinity.

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marcielFr. Marcial Maciel Degollado (March 10, 1920 to January 30, 2008) was a Mexican Catholic Priest who founded the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi movement.

Pope Benedict XVI disciplined him in 2006, inviting him to “a reserved life of prayer and penitence.” This was followed by Maciel’s resignation in January of 2006. He had been charged with incidents of pedophilia which he vehemently denied.

The Legionaries made the statement that he had “accepted the instruction with faith, total calm, with a clear conscience knowing that it is a new cross which God, merciful father, has allowed him to suffer”. The statement compared him to the falsely convicted Christ, and having pled his innocence he resolved himself to follow “the example of Jesus Christ, [and] decided not to defend himself in any way.”

Despite the mounting evidence the Legion and Regnum Christi members remained adament that their founder had been falsely maligned.

But among those charging him were an ex-priest and an active priest. Over a half-dozen men came forward and labeled him an abuser. I am sorry, I thought from the beginning there had to be some substance to their charges. But menton a word about this too his supporters and they were all over you.

Given the many testimonies of abuse and impropriety, even toward those who became priests, I was thankful that Pope Benedict XVI compelled Fr. Maciel to retreat to a life of prayer and penance. The latest news about his out-of-wedlock offspring (hija ilegítima) just compounds the scandal. Previously, there was a resistence among the Legionnaries to accept or even to investigate the charges against their founder. A number of purported victims claimed that this victimized them anew as liars or deviants. Yes, I believe there has to be a reckoning and probably a change from the manner in which the Legion of Christ usually operates. The criticisms of certain bishops and others may now be treated seriously. Among these concerns are the following: a general air of secrecy, a lack of cooperation with local parishes, the clandestine targeting of certain diocesan priests (usually young) for affiliation with them, and an overly rigid formation of seminarians and later priests that causes a dissolution of ties to family and former friends in favor of loyalty to the Legion. It is being argued that this systemic secrecy and control found in the Legionnaries may have found its initial source in the need to protect and enable the secret life of its founder. If that is true, the apple will have to be peeled to its core with the rotten pieces stripped away.

Let us pray for the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi.

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HUMANAE VITAE:  CATHOLIC TEACHING

CUA GIVES GREEN LIGHT TO PRO-ABORT KERRY

DR. HURLBUT’S CREATION:  MAN OR MUTANT?

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL BETRAYS ITS MISSION!

WORDS FROM AN UNBORN DAUGHTER

BISHOP THOMAS TOBIN BLASTS GIULIANI

CATHOLIC BUSINESS NETWORK & BOB CASEY, JR.

BODY PARTS TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER?

PRO-ABORTION POLITICIANS & THE CHURCH

CATHOLIC CONGRESSIONAL DEMOCRATS ATTACK POPE

POPE WARNS PRO-ABORTION POLITICIANS

ARCHBISHOP AMATO ON GAYS, ABORTION & EUTHANASIA

SUPREME COURT JUSTICES OF DEATH

MAINLAND CHINESE EATING BABIES

MR SEAN HANNITY VS FR THOMAS EUTENEUER

LITURGICAL OR MORAL OR POLITICAL DOCUMENT?

GK JOHN MARCUS, REST IN PEACE

FATHER ROBERT DRINAN DIES AT 86

A REFLECTION UPON THE HOLY FAMILY

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frjoeprolife

Here is a picture of me and the Knights of Columbus who set up 721 crosses that represent the children lost to abortion in one hour of one work day.  This MEMORIAL OF THE INNOCENTS will remain up at Holy Family Church in Mitchellville until January 17, when it will be transferred to Sacred Heart Church in Bowie, MD.  Together, we wanted to also make it a preparation for the annual march for Life in Washington, DC.  We have received a lot of support although there have been a few complaints.  One lady argued against putting such a thing up at Christmas time.  I explained that Advent and Christmas was the perfect time.  During Advent we recall the Christ-child in the womb and on Christmas he is born.  We are reminded that every child is a reflection of the Christ-child.  Another person argued that it was insensitive as she was a pro-choice Catholic.  I told her that she was deceived.  There is no such thing as a pro-abortion Christian, abortion attacks the central mystery of the Incarnation.  Abortion is murder and as such it is a repudiation of Christ’s Gospel of Life. 

Goodness, I am humbled that someone nominated my Blog for recognition as a PRO-LIFE Blog. I think there are some far better ones, but I am glad that the message here is clearly on the side of human life and the dignity of persons!  Follow this link to see what I mean:

2009nominee

http://prolifeblogawards.com/

The contest is sponsored by the American Life League, one of the best pro-life organizations around.  They will not compromise the Catholic faith or the pro-life cause for anyone.  God bless them!

One of my favorite memories is working with A.L.L. back in 2005 and the CRUSADERS FOR LIFE.  Here is an abbreviated copy of the post on this Blog:

A.L.L. Crusaders Come to Washington

A dozen young people from colleges across the country walked from Augusta, Maine to Washington, DC in “Defense of the Catholic Church” and to spread the message that you cannot be Catholic and pro-abortion. Nevertheless, while many have applauded young people for taking up the “right to life” cause, this group of remarkable crusaders were banned from speaking in churches by several dioceses like Philadelphia and Baltimore.

Myself, Dr. Grier & a Crusader

The American Life League ran a series of stinging ads challenging the American bishops to enforce canon law and to protect the Eucharist from sacrilege when pro-abortion politicians and others (who have made such “public” stands) take it upon themselves to receive holy communion. The young people have shown no spite or anger, only sadness that the nation’s shepherds have largely chosen to remain on the sidelines. One priest remarked that the ads in protest were so severe that the American Life League owed the leaders of the Church an apology. However, others thought that these good men should at least have shown the same respect and hospitality to the young marchers for life as they have in the past to the high profile anti-life politicians.While they were able to find lodging in the city, Holy Spirit Church had offered them a place to stay if needed, thanks to the generosity of parishioners. They attended 9:00 AM Mass on Friday, July 30 and were invited to say a few words afterwards– an invitation that no other Washington pastor made. (It must be stated, to his credit, that despite the tension with the A.L.L., Cardinal McCarrick did not formally forbid the young people to speak in his churches. Throughout, nothing the young people said violated the archdiocese’s rules against participation in partisan politics– they did not name politicians by name, did not tell people for whom they should vote, and spoke with respect in regard to the Church’s shepherds.) Following the celebration, a reception was held in the Parish House were the young people had a hearty breakfast and got to meet parishioners. Also in attendance was Reginald Grier, a parishioner, a Knight of Columbus at Fletcher Council and volunteer member of the archdiocesan Office for Black Catholics. John Stakem, a Knight of Columbus from St. Pius X Council, and past parishioner was present, too. John Stakem and Joseph Markauskas are long-time pro-life volunteers and are involved with the local pregnancy center. Joe and Betty Markauskas had even offered to give the young people housing while in town. We were very pleased that the director for the Forestville Pregnancy Center was present, Chyllene McLaughlin, along with her assistant. We wanted to communicate to these young people that they are not alone. Holy Spirit Parish, the Knights of Columbus, and the Pregnancy Center in the larger pro-life community, was very much behind them.

ALL Crusaders at Holy Spirit Parish

May God bless them for their sacrifices and may their witness bear fruit.

Here are some past links to PRO-LIFE posts on my site during the past year or so:

CEMETERY OF THE INNOCENTS

PRO-LIFE RESOURCES IN THE ARCHDIOCESE OF WASHINGTON

PLANNED PARENTHOOD: XMAS GIFTCARDS & BARREN WOMBS

BUSH SQUEEZES OUT PRO-LIFE MEASURE, OBAMA UPSET!

WHAT IS COMING NOW THAT OBAMA HAS WON?

ARCHBISHOP CHARLES J. CHAPUT ON KMIEC & OBAMA

A PRIEST SAYS NO COMMUNION FOR OBAMA VOTERS

SK CARL ANDERSON, SENATOR BIDEN & KNIGHTS FOR OBAMA

VP JOE BIDEN:  NO RIGHT TO IMPOSE MY VIEW?

OBAMA & ABORTION:  ARE AMERICANS PRO-LIFE?

AN OBAMA HALLOWEEN

PLANNED PARENTHOOD HIDING CHILD RAPE

OBAMA TRANSITION: BUSH REVERSAL, ABORTION FOR EVERYONE!

STOP THE FREEDOM OF CHOICE ACT!

CAN A CATHOLIC VOTE IN SUPPORT OF ABORTION?

BISHOP HOLLEY:  BLACK COMMUNITY MUST OVERCOME ABORTION

OBAMA & McCAIN DEBATE ABORTION

SENATOR OBAMA ON ABORTION

USING LANGUAGE TO DECEIVE & MISDIRECT

VOTING AS FAITHFUL CITIZENS

BIDEN FALLS INTO PELOSI’S ABORTION HOLE!

HOLOCAUSTS & CULPABILITY:  WHERE DO WE STAND?

USCCB DENOUNCES PELOSI’S WORDS ON ABORTION

DENVER BISHOPS ON CHURCH’S STANCE AGAINST ABORTION

ARCHBISHOP WUERL ON THE CHURCH & ABORTION

CARDINAL EGAN’S ON THE UNBORN

FACE THE TRUTH TOUR PARTICIPANTS ARRESTED!

PLANNED PARENTHOOD:  FRAUD, MINORS & BIG BUCKS!

ABORTIFACIENT BIRTH CONTROL PILLS

PLANNED PARENTHOOD & RACISM #1

PLANNED PARENTHOOD & RACISM #2

BORN ALIVE INFANTS PROTECTION ACT

PLANNED PARENTHOOD SELLS SEX

ABORTION & BLACK GENOCIDE

ARGUMENT WITH A PAID BABY KILLER

BABIES, ADOPTION, PURCHASE, ABORTION

BABY WITH TUMOR BORN TWICE

FIRST PREGNANT MAN REALLY A WOMAN!

UBI CARITAS – CHURCH TEACHING ON ABORTION

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