Four ways to Encounter Jesus in the Mass

September 7, 2011 under Syllabus 2011-2012

Objective

Pay more attention during mass and learn to encounter Jesus

1. In the community

2. In His Word

3. Through the Priest

4. Through the Eucharist

When we learn how to “be on the lookout for Jesus Christ at Mass; when the Mass is no longer just a ritual that repeats the same old thing every time, but becomes an event through which we encounter Jesus Christ, then it will be anything but boring.

Bible Readings

1. 1 Cor. 11:23-26

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant of my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”

2. Matthew. 5:23–24

Assemble on the Lord’s day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until he has been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice.

3. Luke 22:19

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me’.

Catechism Readings

1. Paragraph 1382

The Mass is at the same time, and inseparably, the sacrificial memorial in which the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated and the sacred banquet of communion with the Lord’s body and blood. But the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice is wholly directed toward the intimate union of the faithful with Christ through communion. To receive communion is to receive Christ himself who has offered himself for us.

2. Paragraph 1378

Worship of the Eucharist.

In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord. “The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession.

Small Group Questions

1. What effort do you put in to understanding what is going on during Mass? You only get out of it what you put in.

2. Do you challenge your family to participate and be attentive during Mass?

Recommended Resources

1. The Mass: Four Encounters with Jesus That Will Change Your Life, Dr. Tom Curran

2. “The Holy Mass- The Testimony of Catalina” – Document is on the Father’s Team website

3. “The Lamb’s Supper – Scott Hahn

Accountability

1. Next time you attend Mass actively try to encounter Jesus through your fellow parishioners, in the readings, through the priest’s homily and through the Eucharist.

Author(s)

Tony Heekin

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Why Does God Allow Suffering?

September 7, 2011 under Syllabus 2011-2012

Summary

Some wonder how to reconcile the evil and suffering in the world with a God who is all-powerful and all-good. God really does care… He loves us.  He did not have to, but He proved it when He became one of us and took on our pain and suffering and sin. His death on the cross for you and for me is the greatest act of love ever performed. And it does not end there. But why? Why is there so much pain and suffering in the world? Why does God permit suffering?

Objective

To be called to suffering in this life is to be called into the mystery of Christ’s Passion and to cooperate in the redemption of mankind. 

Bible Readings

1. Romans 5:3-5

3 Not only so, but we[a] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

2. Romans 8:18

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

3. Romans 8:28

We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.

4. Colossians 3:24

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.

5. 1 Corinthians 10:13

No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.

Catechism Readings

1. Paragraph 310

But why did God not create a world so perfect that no evil could exist in it? With infinite power God could always create something better. But with infinite wisdom and goodness God freely willed to create a world “in a state of journeying” towards its ultimate perfection. In God’s plan this process of becoming involves the appearance of certain beings and the disappearance of others, the existence of the more perfect alongside the less perfect, both constructive and destructive forces of nature. With physical good there exists also physical evil as long as creation has not reached perfection.

2. Paragraph 311

Angels and men, as intelligent and free creatures, have to journey toward their ultimate destinies by their free choice and preferential love. They can therefore go astray. Indeed, they have sinned. Thus has moral evil, incommensurably more harmful than physical evil, entered the world. God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil. He permits it, however, because he respects the freedom of his creatures and, mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it:

For almighty God. . ., because he is supremely good, would never allow any evil whatsoever to exist in his works if he were not so all-powerful and good as to cause good to emerge from evil itself.

3. Paragraph 312

In time we can discover that God in his almighty providence can bring a good from the consequences of an evil, even a moral evil, caused by his creatures: “It was not you”, said Joseph to his brothers, “who sent me here, but God. . . You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive.” From the greatest moral evil ever committed – the rejection and murder of God’s only Son, caused by the sins of all men – God, by his grace that “abounded all the more”, brought the greatest of goods: the glorification of Christ and our redemption. But for all that, evil never becomes a good.

4. Paragraph 313

“We know that in everything God works for good for those who love him.”180 The constant witness of the saints confirms this truth:

St. Catherine of Siena said to “those who are scandalized and rebel against what happens to them”: “Everything comes from love, all is ordained for the salvation of man, God does nothing without this goal in mind.”181

St. Thomas More, shortly before his martyrdom, consoled his daughter: “Nothing can come but that that God wills. And I make me very sure that whatsoever that be, seem it never so bad in sight, it shall indeed be the best.”182

Dame Julian of Norwich: “Here I was taught by the grace of God that I should steadfastly keep me in the faith. . . and that at the same time I should take my stand on and earnestly believe in what our Lord shewed in this time – that ‘all manner [of] thing shall be well.'”183

5. Paragraph 314

We firmly believe that God is master of the world and of its history. But the ways of his providence are often unknown to us. Only at the end, when our partial knowledge ceases, when we see God “face to face”,184 will we fully know the ways by which – even through the dramas of evil and sin – God has guided his creation to that definitive sabbath rest185 for which he created heaven and earth.

Small Group Questions

1. Think about a situation where you or a loved one experienced pain and suffering. Looking back, was there even the slightest scenario in which some sort of good came about out as a result?

2. In what ways can you view suffering as a means in which God can work toward his plan or glory?

3. Has God ever used pain and suffering in your life to get your attention? What was he attempting to get across to you?

Recommended Resources

1. Article: Why Does God Allow Suffering? http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/2011/07/bickerstaff-why-does-god-allow-suffering/

2. Book: “Why Suffer” by Mary Ann Budnik. http://www.scepterpublishers.org/product/index.php?FULL=312

3. Why Does God Let Us Suffer? (A Catholic Perspective) Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan

http://www.users.qwest.net/~dkturner/why9.html

4. Book: “The Problem of Pain”, C.S. Lewis

5. Book: “Grief Observed”, C.S. Lewis

6. Salvifici Doloris [On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering], Pope John Paul II

7. Book: “Making Sense our of Suffering”, P. Kreeft

Accountability

1. Think about some ways in which a pain or hardship you are currently suffering could be used to help God fulfill some sort of purpose for good.

2. Think of any past situation in which you may have blamed God for your suffering. How does God’s allowing of free will and evil in the world fit into this picture?

3. This week, consider prayerfully asking God to reveal to you ways in which you can view suffering as a means of glorifying Him. Share any thoughts or experiences during your next small group meeting.

Author(s)

Graham Galloway

Included Resources

I offer you, Lord, my thoughts: to be fixed on you;
My words: to have you for their theme;
My actions: to reflect my love for you;
My sufferings: to be endured for your greater glory.

I want to do what you ask of me:
In the way you ask,
For as long as you ask,
Because you ask it.

Lord, enlighten my understanding,
Strengthen my will,
Purify my heart,
and make me holy.

Teach me to realize that this world is passing,
That my true future is the happiness of heaven,
That life on earth is short,
And the life to come eternal.

– from The Universal Prayer of Pope Clement XI

Why Does God Allow Suffering? – Karl Erickson

The unfolding tragedy in Japan is surely prompting many to ask hard questions such as why does a good God permit the evil of suffering? While I can’t do more than scratch the surface of such a deep question, we can certainly say what the answer is not. After every natural disaster resulting in tragic loss of life, some misguided people–e.g. Hillsboro Baptist Church–always insist that the earthquake, tsunami, etc. was a direct punishment from God. Sometimes, I think this serves as a personal coping mechanism, a way to make sense out of destructive chaos. In the case of the aforementioned church, though, I suspect that the motivation is darker in nature.

It’s a misleading and dangerous line of reasoning to pursue, however. Since we read in James 1:13 that God is not tempted by evil, nor does He tempt us, it would be impossible for Him to be the source of such suffering. This is simply an example of what the CCC calls “physical evil” as opposed to “moral evil”. The world is a complicated machine in which God does not constantly insert His hand when something is about to break and cause harm. He permits nature to run its course. To do otherwise, would be heaven, and we’re not there yet (except in Mass, as Scott Hahn might say).

Here’s a small part of what the Catholic Encyclopedia offers on the three different dimensions of evil. (I’m not sure I’ve ever actually heard of “metaphysical evil” before. It’s also not mentioned once in the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church.)

With regard to the nature of evil, it should be observed that evil is of three kinds — physical, moral, and metaphysical. Physical evil includes all that causes harm to man, whether by bodily injury, by thwarting his natural desires, or by preventing the full development of his powers, either in the order of nature directly, or through the various social conditions under which mankind naturally exists. Physical evils directly due to nature are sickness, accident, death, etc. Poverty, oppression, and some forms of disease are instances of evil arising from imperfect social organization. Mental suffering, such as anxiety, disappointment, and remorse, and the limitation of intelligence which prevents humans beings from attaining to the full comprehension of their environment, are congenital forms of evil each vary in character and degree according to natural disposition and social circumstances.

Are all types of pain and suffering, then, because of the Fall of Man? The simple answer is Yes. The choice of Adam and Eve, already created in the image of God, to disobey their Creator in a tragically misguided attempt to be “like God,” led to evil being allowed to enter the world, permanently changing every facet and dimension of our lives. With the barrier of sin now present between us and our Heavenly Father, however, God never gave up on mankind, but He continually sought to give us the means to seek and receive redemption and freedom from the sin. While the sin weakens us, the suffering may build spiritual strength and endurance.

The simple answer to Why does God allow suffering? is really impossible until we first have a solid understanding of the nature of sin and evil. Once that is understood, we can say that suffering allows us to become the people God created us to be, refined by fire as it were. As previously mentioned, God allows our broken world to run its course. When my grandmother lay dying in a coma some years ago in a small hospital room overlooking the brilliant fall tapestry of the Yakima Valley below, I remarked to my grandfather “that it wasn’t ever supposed to be this way.” By that statement, I was trying to say that God had other plans for us–even though his omniscient nature was fully aware that we would fail. If there was no free will, we could not truly say that we could independently love God; we would be automatons, machines. Likewise, suffering may also be tied to this free will. We are held accountable for our bad choices and decisions–sin being the worst.

Along our journey, it’s important to remember that every person we meet within our hectic daily schedules is someone for whom Christ’s blood was spilled, and, therefore, a fellow member or potential member, of the Body of Christ. As C.S. Lewis reminds us in The Weight of Glory, there aren’t “ordinary people.” We all have everlasting souls. We are familiar perhaps with the idea of redemptive suffering, offering our pains and struggles up to God. If we can apply this kind of internal reverence to our daily lives, we are offering these routine activities up to Christ. In this way, we are also acknowledging that we our identity is greater than what our daily life may trick us to believe. That is, our identity should not necessarily be tied so closely to our work or vocation. We are more than what we do from 8-5; our jobs should not define us. When we understand this, we are transforming the mundane to the eternal as we strive to live Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians 10:31: “whatever you do, do for the glory of God.”

Not only may suffering lead us to a closer union with Christ, but God can bring good out of the evils we face. In conclusion, here is a passage from Saint Thomas Aquinas’ masterpiece Summa Theologica. It’s also followed by a short quote from C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain.

I answer that, It must be said that every evil in some way has a cause. For evil is the absence of the good, which is natural and due to a thing. But that anything fail from its natural and due disposition can come only from some cause drawing it out of its proper disposition. For a heavy thing is not moved upwards except by some impelling force; nor does an agent fail in its action except from some impediment… (Saint Thomas)

Pain hurts. That is what the word means. I am only trying to show that the old Christian doctrine of being made perfect through suffering is not incredible. To prove it palatable is beyond my design. (C.S. Lewis)

HOW SHOULD THE CHRISTIAN RESPOND TO PERSONAL SUFFERING?

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:9a

Have you have been waging a battle against forces that threaten you and your family?  You need to be assured that the Savior who loves you and who died that you might live with Him throughout all eternity will give you the strength of faith to endure your ordeal of suffering.  You must claim the promise our Lord made to us through His Apostle Paul that He will not give you more than you can bear, “None of the trials which have come upon you is more than a human being can stand.  You can trust that God will not let you be put to the test beyond your strength, but with any trial will also provide a way out by enabling you to put up with it.” [1 Corinthians 10:13].  As you experience your trials I urge you to unite your suffering, both emotionally and physically, with the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ and to take courage from the words of our late Pope who wrote that “God is always on the side of suffering” [Crossing the Threshold of Hope, Pope John Paul II, page 66].  God the Son’s love and mercy are demonstrated by the fact that He freely chose to suffer as the means of His plan of redemption for the salvation of mankind, as from the cross He spoke the words of Psalm 22:1, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me,” the words of all those who suffer in this life.  Those very words are the proof that He chose to unite our suffering to His!  What greater demonstration could there be to the depth and sincerity of His love for us?  He loved us in His suffering to the end of His life’to His last breath as the Apostle John testifies in John 13:1, “having loved those who were his in the world, loved them to the end.”

Why would a just and loving God allow suffering?  When God created man to “know, love, and serve” Him, God desired a purity of love which cannot be exercised without the human freedom to choose to love or not to love [cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1604].  With this freedom of choice to love God expressed in obedience of faith or not to love expressed in our disobedience comes the possibility of sin, and with the possibility of sin comes the resulting suffering which can lead to sickness, mental anguish, pain and even death.  God did not create evil.  Evil is the result of the willful turning away from God and His infinite love, but God did allow for the possibility of sin and the resulting evil so that the greatest of human good’genuine love, could be manifested in mankind.  The negative result of that freedom of choice is sadly, sin and suffering.

In the Old Testament Book of Job God exposes us to the incomprehensibility of suffering in that even the good and the innocent must endure suffering in this life as a result of sin in the world.  The full depth of the injustice of and gravity of the suffering of the innocent is fully revealed in the humanity of Jesus of Nazareth when God unites Himself to the suffering of man.  There is no more complete answer as to why a just God allows the innocent to suffer than the answer that is offered up to humanity in the saving work of Jesus Christ.  In addressing the question of human suffering in the document Salvifici Doloris [1984], Pope John Paul II writes “Christ does not explain in the abstract the reasons for suffering, but before all else he says: ‘Follow me!  Come!  Take part through your suffering in this work of saving the world, a salvation achieved through my suffering!  Through my cross!'” [Salvifici Doloris, 26].  In Jesus the Messiah, the dimension of the suffering of the innocent is revealed to be a redemptive suffering’a suffering transformed and redeemed through the cross of Christ.  Reflecting on this mystery John Paul II wrote, “Christ has opened His suffering to man…  Man, discovering through faith the redemptive suffering of Christ, also discovers in it his own sufferings; he rediscovers them through faith, enriched with a new content and meaning” [Salvifici Doloris, 20].

To be called to suffering in this life is to be called into the mystery of Christ’s Passion and to cooperate in the redemption of mankind.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church assures us in article 307 that  we can all become collaborators with God’s plan of salvation “…to human beings God even gives the power of freely sharing in his providence by entrusting them with the responsibility of ‘subduing’ the earth and having dominion over it (Genesis 1:26-28).  God thus enables men to be intelligent and free causes in order to complete the work of creation, to perfect its harmony for their own good and that of their neighbors.  Though often unconscious collaborators with God’s will, they can also enter deliberately into the divine plan by their actions, their prayers, and their sufferings.  They then fully become ‘God’s fellow workers’ and co-workers for his kingdom (1 Corinthians 3:9; 1 Thessalonians 3:2; Colossians 4:11).”  We can become collaborators with God’s plan of salvation when we unite our sufferings with the sufferings of Christ and offer up our prayers for the salvation of our neighbors, our communities, and the world.  Our suffering offered up to Christ places us at the pivot point of the history of man’at the side of the suffering Jesus who gave Himself up, Body and Blood, pain and tears for the salvation of the world.  Our suffering also places us in a unique proximity to His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, our example of the model Christian, who also as prophesized [Luke 2:33-35], suffered united with her son and Savior.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses this unique opportunity to participate in Christ’s sacrifice by uniting our suffering to His in article 618, “The cross is the unique sacrifice of Christ, the ‘one mediator between God and men (1 Timothy 2:5).’  But because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every man, ‘the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery’ is offered to all men.  He calls his disciples to ‘take up [their] cross and follow [him]’ (Matthew 16:24), for ‘Christ also suffered for [us], leaving [us] an example so that [we] should follow in his steps.’ (1 Peter 2:21).  In fact Jesus desires to associate with his redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries.  This is achieved supremely in the case of his mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering [see Luke 2:35].

Pope John Paul II defined human suffering as “a great test not only of physical strength but also spiritual strength” [Crossing the Threshold of Hope, page 25]. Saint Paul understood this testing and the necessity to unite suffering to the suffering of Christ for the sake of the redemption of man when he wrote to the Christians at Colossus “It makes me happy to be suffering for you now, and in my own body to make up all the hardships that still have to be undergone by Christ for the sake of His body, the Church, of which I was made a servant with the responsibility towards you that God gave to me” [Colossians 1:24]. Paul is not saying that Jesus’ suffering was insufficient’His suffering was wholly and completely sufficient, instead Paul is keenly aware that as the battle against sin continues and the resulting suffering from sin continues that when a Christian offers up his personal suffering united with Jesus’ suffering that this mystical union works toward the continual call to salvation in the world.  The Son of God willingly suffered to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth – the Catholic Church, and anyone who continues in Christ’s work and takes up the cross of our Lord must share in the suffering of that cross.  In our suffering for the Kingdom we must unite our suffering to Christ’s suffering and in that struggle some of us will be called to deep physical suffering while others to emotional suffering and persecution for the sake of the Kingdom, for “Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.” ~Saint Rose of Lima

Therefore, suffering is not in vain.  There is the promise of an eternal reward for faithful endurance in submitting to the will of God as well as the opportunity to cooperate in God’s plan of salvation.  In 2 Corinthians 1:5 Paul writes “For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow into our lives; so too does the encouragement we receive through Christ.  So if we have hardships to undergo, this will contribute to your encouragement and your salvation; if we receive encouragement, this is to gain for you the encouragement which evokes you to bear with perseverance the same sufferings as we do.  So our hope for you is secure in the knowledge that you share the encouragement we receive, no less than the sufferings we bear.”   This is the Pascal mystery’in our suffering we behold the risen and glorified Christ as we take our part in the New Creation and as we are hounded and wounded by the sufferings that are still our link to the old creation which is still held by the last threads of sin, suffering and death.  Our suffering united with Christ and our prayers not only can work toward the salvation of those in whom we come in contact when we share His message of salvation in love in the midst of our suffering, but our sufferings united to Christ can also free us from the accountability and deserved penance of past confessed sins as well as strengthen our faith and the depth of our imaging Christ in our daily lives.  All suffering united to Christ’s sufferings counts to the good for us and for our fellow man.  In Philippians 1:20 Paul also writes, “…all in accordance with my most confident hope and trust that I shall never have to admit defeat, but with complete fearlessness I shall go on, so that now, as always, Christ will be glorified in my body, whether by my life or my death.  Life to me, of course, is Christ, but then death would be a positive gain…”  But what we must never do in our suffering is to despair.  Despair is a sin for in despair we no longer acknowledge confidence in God’s love and His plan for our lives as the best plan and the right plan.

Through our rebirth into the family of God through the Sacrament of Baptism and through the most Holy Eucharist, in which the believer receives Jesus Christ, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity’a Christian is so mystically united into the divine life of Christ that the whole of the believer’s life’including his sufferings and death, are mystically united to Christ living in him and being glorified in him [see Romans 14:8; 1 Corinthians 6:20].  Our earthly suffering allows us a special intimacy with our Savior in those hours when His love for us was most visible. We must embrace our suffering when He calls us to suffering as though we were embracing Him and have the courage to repeat the words of St. Paul in his suffering:  “I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.  Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong” [2 Corinthians 12:9b-10].  May our loving and merciful God bless you and keep you in the arms of the Savior who loved you to the end.

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Eucharistic Adoration

September 7, 2011 under Syllabus 2011-2012

Summary

Lifestyle hectic? Kids, work, meetings, sports, school – it all adds up. How do you take a break, clear your head, and focus on what really centers your life? Learn how Eucharistic Adoration provides you the opportunity to get closer to your Lord and savior and focus on the things that really matter in life.

Objective

We Catholics as Christians hold many beliefs in common with the other Christian religions and that’s a wonderful bond that promotes peace, tolerance, and understanding. However we Catholics are different in that we take Jesus Christ at His word. We believe that Jesus gave His own body and blood in the special sacrament we call the Holy Eucharist. Why do we believe this? Not because some theologians say so, or even because the Church says so. We believe this because Jesus Christ says so, and we believe him. Jesus said “This is my body, which will be given up for you. This is my blood, which will be shed for you. Do this in memory of Me.”

The objective of this session is to explore the unique belief that Catholic’s have regarding the Blessed Sacrament of Holy Eucharist. What makes this special for us? How can we make Eucharistic Adoration a bigger part of our relationship with Christ through understanding, worship, and perhaps quiet time with him through the parish Eucharistic Adoration opportunity?

Bible Readings

1. Matthew 26:26-28

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, 16 and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.

2. Mark 14:22-24

While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed 8 for many.

3. Luke 22:19-20

Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.
The above three Gospel passages record the Institution of the Holy Eucharist by Christ Himself at the Last Supper. Take note that He does not say “This resembles my body” or “This is symbolic of my body”. He says “This is my body.” His words in the passage below from the Gospel of John confirm this.

4. John 6:53-58

Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

Catechism Readings

1. Paragraph 1374

“The mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the EUCHARIST above all the sacraments as ‘the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.'[St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 73, 3c.] In the most blessed sacrament of the EUCHARIST ‘the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.'[Council of Trent (1551): DS 1651.] ‘This presence is called ‘real’ – by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be ‘real’ too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.'[Paul VI, MF 39.]”

2. Paragraph 1384

“The Lord addresses an invitation to us, urging us to receive him in the sacrament of the EUCHARIST: ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.'[Jn 6:53 .]”

Small Group Questions

1. How does the presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist effect your ability to feel a deeper relationship with God?

2. Do you understand the differences between the Catholic faith and beliefs versus other Christian religions like the Protestant, Methodist, or Baptist faiths? What is it that makes us unique?

3. How can you promote a greater understanding of the beliefs of the Catholic faith with your family? Your friends? The people that you meet.

4. Have you ever done Eucharistic Adoration as a practice? What did you feel? Are you still doing it?

Recommended Resources

1. http://ihom.org/GETINVOLVED/Ministries/PerpetualEucharisticAdoration.aspx – IHM’s Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration web page.

2. http://ihom.org/GETINVOLVED/Ministries/PerpetualEucharisticAdoration/Contacts/Adorers.aspx – IHM’s Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration schedule of Adorers.

3. http://blog.archny.org/?p=1363 – Blog by Archbishop Dolan on Eucharistic Adoration value

4. http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/pea/holyhour.html – How to pray the hour.

5. http://pope2008.typepad.com/weblog/2008/05/how-to-pray-a-h.html – More prescriptive how to pray the hour.

6. http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/pea/prayers.html – Eucharistic Adoration Prayers.

7. http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/pea/a2.html – much more included below from here.

8. http://www.medjugorje.org/adore.htm – has many things about Eucharistic Adoration.

Accountability

1. Discuss with your family the gift of the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist that we have.

2. Focus on the Eucharistic prayer with special attention this week and feel the power of this part of the mass.

3. Consider filling a slot on the IHoM Eucharistic Adoration calendar. Could you do it as a team of Fathers?

Author(s)

Dan Lape

Included Resources

http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/pea/whyadore.htm

It’s still good for us Catholics to know what beliefs we hold to in common with other Christians, but now, it has become more urgent that we Catholics know how we are different; to recognize the treasures of faith that we have; treasures rejected or abandoned by other Christians. Today, we will concentrate on the principal Catholic belief that makes us Catholics different – different from the great majority of other Christians. That, of course, is our belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

We Catholics are different because we take Jesus Christ at His word. We believe that Jesus gave us His own body and blood in the special sacrament we call the Holy Eucharist. We Catholics actually believe that Jesus is really present in this sacrament! For us Catholics, the Holy Eucharist is not just a symbol. It is not just a memory. It is not just a promise. It is really Jesus Christ. The Holy Eucharist is not some ‘thing’. It is some ‘one’. It is Jesus, our Lord and our God. This is what we mean by the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This is why we call the Holy Eucharist “the Blessed Sacrament”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A personal testimonial on the value of Eucharistic Adoration from a parishioner:

Back in 1997, I had a strong inspiration from the Holy Spirit to attend mass during the week. I did some research and started calling around to see who had a noon mass that was close to where I worked. I was led to Old St Mary’s church downtown. I started going to Noon mass every day at Old St. Mary during my lunch hour. Fr. Al Lauer was a very devout and holy priest who said mass there. His message was always very strong, and straight forward. In his homilies he urged us to practice holiness, and to visit the sacrament of confession often. After about a year of attending his daily mass, we had several conversations after mass. He mentioned he was starting Eucharistic adoration everyday downtown in the evening.

I agreed to commit to Eucharistic adoration every Wednesday evening from 6 to 7. I found this to be a very peaceful and quiet time to reflect on my life, to pray, and strengthen my relationship with God. At times my job tends to be very hectic, and adoration seemed to lift up my spirit no matter what the situation. This also gave me a chance to improve my relationship with God.

Since attending adoration it gave me a chance to pray for all members of my family, relatives, friends, workmates, and anyone who needed to be prayed for. About 8 years ago, I was asked to devote an hour for IHM also. I am blessed to be able to offer Eucharistic adoration twice a week.

I feel I have received many blessings, and answers to prayers since I’ve started adoration. Sometimes my prayers are not always answered the way I want, but I know that God gives me what I need, not what I want. I have learned over the years that I must follow God’s will, not my own will. I feel very blessed to be a part of adoration. I highly recommend you visit the blessed Sacrament whenever you have the chance, and maybe even commit for an hour. I promise if you spend an hour with the Lord every week, after prayerful discernment , Jesus will help you to understand His will for you.

Here is one quote of many by Mother Teresa of Calcutta on Eucharistic devotion:

“ Every holy hour deepens our union with Him and bears much fruit. “

A second personal testimonial on the value of Eucharistic Adoration from a parishioner:

With the renovations made and the new Chapel so visible on Beechmont, I would often think to say a prayer as I drove by on my many trips to and from McNick. On one such trip, I had picked up our boys from an afterschool activity, it was late in the evening, homework still needed to be completed and they were not in a good mood. I don’t know what came over me (well, maybe I do) but I swerved over and pulled into IHM’s parking lot. My sons looked at me in astonishment. What are you doing, we still have homework, it’s late, etc. I said we needed an attitude adjustment and were going to spend a few minutes in the chapel with Jesus. What peace we found there. After a short time, not wanting to keep them up too late, I motioned that we could leave. Now, to my surprise, one of the boys was motioning back that he wasn’t ready yet.

That was one of my earliest experiences with adoration. I became an infrequent visitor. There were always excuses and never enough time. In the fall of 2007, Jeff and I decided to make a commitment to adore once a week together. There was a need for Friday at 5:00 p.m. and we decided to give it a try. The time commitment has been a lot easier to keep than anticipated. It has become a peaceful start to our weekend. That one hour with Jesus has helped us to refocus our lives each week. It has made it easier for us to continually put our lives in God’s hands and to trust His direction – His will. It’s a great thing to share that hour with Jesus and with each other. When I first brought up the subject of committed adoration to Jeff his thought was what am I going to think or talk about for an hour with God. He finds himself reflecting about self, spouse, children (living and past), parents (living and past), saying the Rosary and before your know it the hour is up. We always find ourselves thanking God for the 60 minutes with Him one on one. It’s a great time to get out of the daily fast paced life and sit in a reflective environment where you have no one to impress but the Creator who knows you best.

The week after Easter, 2008, we drove our 19 year old son to New York for a co-op job. He would be living on his own, many hours from home, not knowing anyone for three months. We were scared to say the least. While there I looked up the local Catholic Church (Immaculate Heart of Mary!) and we drove there for a visit. I entered the chapel with all my fear and I felt it literally lift away. I realized that the Jesus I visited in our chapel was here for my son too. What peace! At that moment I knew he would be okay.

What a blessing we found in that Chapel and what a blessing we find in our Chapel. Our continued commitment to adoration has opened a constant dialog with God. He is with us every step of our lives. What a wonderful thing to not only know that but to feel it in our hearts.

http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/pea/define.htm – Definitions of different parts of Eucharistic Adoration to promote a better foundation and history.

Monstrance (emblem)

A symbol of the Blessed Sacrament since the monstrance is the sacred vessel which contains the consecrated Host when exposed or carried in procession. It is a well-known emblem of St. Clare, who is reported to have repulsed unbelievers who assaulted her convent of nuns by presenting to their gaze Christ in the monstrance. St. Peter Julian Eymard, founder of the Blessed Sacrament Fathers, is symbolized carrying the monstrance and blessing the people with it. St.Thomas Aquinas has the monstrance among his many emblems as the author of the famous hymns Lauda Sion and Pange Lingua, written to honor the Eucharistic Lord. St. John Neumann, who first established the forty hours’ devotion in America, and St. Paschal Baylon, patron of Eucharistic Congresses, are both represented in art with the monstrance. (Etym. Latin monstrans from monstrare, to show, point out, indicate.) See also OSTENSORIUM.

Ostensorium

A monstrance, a metal vessel usually gold- or silver-plated with a transparent section in which the Sacred Host is placed in its lunette when exposed for adoration or carried in procession. It varies in shape and ornamentation, popular models being tower-shaped or round; a metal circlet surrounded with rays or bars resting on a stem rising from a heavy base, many ornamented with jewels. The ostensorium in the Cathedral of Toledo took more than a hundred years to make and is reputed to be of gold brought by Columbus from America.

Perpetual Adoration

Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, either reserved in the tabernacle or exposed in a monstrance, continued by successive worshipers day and night without intermission. The practice of perpetual adoration of God by psalm and prayer has been maintained by monks and nuns since early Christian times, e.g., by the akoimetoi in the East, and the monastery of Agaunum, founded by King Sigismund of Burgundy in A.D. 522. Similar practices were current elsewhere before the ninth century. It was in France that perpetual adoration of the Eucharist began. Mother Mechtilde of the Blessed Sacrament pioneered the custom on request of Pére Picotte. The Benedictine convent, founded for this purpose, opened on March 25, 1654. Since then many religious communities have made perpetual Eucharistic adoration either the main or an essential part of their rule of life. Confraternities of the faithful have also been organized to practice the devotion, along with the religious or, in some cases, in their parish churches.

Tabernacle

A cupboard or boxlike receptacle for the exclusive reservation of the Blessed Sacrament. In early Christian times the sacred species was reserved in the home because of possible persecution. Later dove-shaped tabernacles were suspended by chains before the altar. Nowadays tabernacles may be round or rectangular and made of wood, stone, or metal. They are covered with a veil and lined with precious metal or silk, with a corporal beneath the ciboria or other sacred vessels. According to the directive of the Holy See, since the Second Vatican Council, tabernacles are always solid and inviolable and located in the middle of the main altar or on a side altar, but always in a truly prominent place (Eucharisticum Mysterium, May 25, 1967, II, C).

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Stages of Marriage

September 7, 2011 under Syllabus 2011-2012

Summary

This week’s topic should help every man understand where he and his spouse are in their “stage” of marriage. Deacon Dave Shea will reprise this discussion to help the men of Father’s team get the most out their marriage.

Objective

This topic will help all the Father’s – no matter what stage of marriage they are in, Newly Married, Middle Years or Later Years) understand the issues and opportunities that we face as men in our marriages. Each stage brings new challenges and Dave will help us recognize our stage and then be able to talk with our spouses about how to make the most out of our marriages.

Newly Married

· The first five years can be exhilarating as couples experience new “firsts” together- their first Christmas as a married couple, first dinner party for the in-laws, even their first joint tax return. At the same time, the early years require personal adjustment, which is stressful on the relationship.

· Sometimes it’s poor choice of partner. Couples who entered enthusiastically- but blindly- into marriage soon see their spouse’s shadow side when there’s no longer a need to keep up a good front. They realize that they married a person who doesn’t share the remote, likes to chatter in the morning or, worse yet, doesn’t share their values.

· Others fall prey to the stresses of early marriage. Some of these stresses might be age-related. Young couples may not have developed the emotional maturity, coping and communication skills, or financial savvy to navigate the many decisions thrust upon them early in their marriage. Hanging in and learning the art of negotiating can resolve these issues, but it takes maturity and patience.

· Help is available if the couple has the wisdom and humility to seek it. The most important thing to remember is that most of the early stressful adjustments in marriage are normal. Beyond leaving the the toilet seat up or down, what are the important issues that need to be negotiated?

· According to research done by the Center for Marriage and Family at Creighton University (2000) the top three issues for couples during the first five years of marriage are time, sex, and money:

Middle Years

· For most couples, parenting is the most distinctive feature of this stage. It may be compared to the middle years of childhood (ages 5-12), which is sometimes called the latency stage. Although the child continues to grow, this growth tends to be steady and without significant turmoil.

· Some couples-the “sandwich” generation-find themselves taking care of children plus aging parents. Meanwhile, their marriage and personal needs may be pushed into the background, unless a crisis erupts. Couples in the middle stage of marriage often must renegotiate household, financial, and parenting tasks. The stress of these multiple adjustments helps explain why the marriage satisfaction rate drops significantly for parents with young children.

· While rearing children can unite parents in a common venture, it also changes the marriage irreversibly. There is more to argue about and less time for conversation, play and sexual intimacy.

· During the teen years, parents generally find that they need more emotional than physical energy. Parents stress out over how strict or lenient they should be with their teens. Parents begin to lose control over their teens, but they still bear the responsibility of parenting without the rewards of children who look up to them as if they walked on water. Marital dissatisfaction decreases significantly for most couples during the teen years.

· Couples who do not have children have their own issues to deal with. They may want children and have been dealing with infertility. If many of their friends have children they may they feel left out. They may be so consumed with career or extended family obligations that their marriage relationship has become stale.

Later Years

· The later years includes the blissful “empty-nest” season of a marriage that can feel like a second honeymoon. Many couples welcome their new freedom,” while others have a hard time letting go. Sometimes a couple who happily thought they were in the empty-nest stage are faced with a boomerang young adult who again needs their care, presence, home, and perhaps babysitting services. The later years can also bring major health issues and the gradual loss of abilities.

· Second marriage couples enter the later years of their lives but it’s the early years of their marriage. Men and women who marry after a divorce or death of a spouse, or after waiting for the right person, experience in their later years some of the same adjustments of young marrieds.

· Issues of diminishing health, grief over peers dying, and significant blocks of togetherness time are common. Thus, the wife who married her husband “for better or for worse, but not for lunch together!” becomes a poignant cliché.

· How do couples re-negotiate their relationship to take into account their new freedom, increased time together, possibly decreased income, and fading health and energy? Some do it with grace because over the years they’ve learned the marital dance of flexibility and tolerance. Some complain a lot, about life, each other, about the weather.

· Some may want to complain but know that’s not very endearing. Yet they struggle with letting go of the old patterns and roles of their life together. For these couples, the desire to let go with grace may be enough motivation to:

· Attend a marriage enrichment program geared especially to older couples

· Explore new hobbies and interests together

· Volunteer with their church, community, or other good causes that would benefit from their experience

· Deepen their spirituality to help them deal with the losses and limitations of later life

· Forgive others’ faults and drop long-held grudges

Bible Readings

1. Ephesians 5:22-25

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. 24Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.

Catechism Readings

1. Paragraph 1660

The marriage covenant, by which a man and a woman form with each other an intimate communion of life and love, has been founded and endowed with its own special laws by the Creator. By its very nature it is ordered to the good of the couple, as well as to the generation and education of children. Christ the Lord raised marriage between the baptized to the dignity of a sacrament (cf. CIC, can. 1055 § 1; cf. GS 48 § 1).

Small Group Questions

1. Look at the stages of marriage described in the lesson – where are you and your spouse?

2. What are you doing to get the most out of the stage of marriage today?

Recommended Resources

1. Stages of Marriage – Catholic conference of Bishops http://foryourmarriage.org/everymarriage/stages-of-marriage/

2. Five Stages of Marriage – http://www.songtime.com/sbc/sbcfivestagesofmarriage.htm

Accountability

1. When you go home today – initiate a discussion with your wife about what stage of marriage you are in and how you are dealing with the issues associated with that phase.

Author

Rich Delcore

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Finding a Spiritual Advisor

September 7, 2011 under Syllabus 2011-2012

Summary

A Catholic without a spiritual director is like an Olympic athlete without a coach.
To be a Catholic means that you are in a race for heaven. It means you’re trying to become a saint, not just to squeak through the pearly gates. 

The race to heaven isn’t a jog in the park; it’s an Olympic marathon.  If we are to finish this race, we need stamina and skill – which is where the coach comes in. 

Any athlete serious about his game will seek out the best coach he can find. And any Catholic serious about holiness would also do well to think about finding a spiritual director. 

– Catholic.net

Objective

The objective of this topic is to assist in finding the right spiritual advisor. Everyone is different. You want the right advisor that fits your needs.

Remember, it is up to you to choose your spiritual director wisely. Some advisors may go too easy on you. Some may be too rigid.

Bible Readings

1. Proverbs 11, 14

“Where there is no wise guidance, the nation falls, but in the multitude of counselors there is victory.”

2. Proverbs 20, 18

“Plans are established by advice; by wise guidance you wage war!”

3. Proverbs 24, 6

“for by wise guidance you wage your war; and victory is in many advisors.”

Small Group Questions

1. Do you have a spiritual advisor? If so, tell others in the group how it has benefitted you.

2. Have you ever thought of getting a spiritual advisor?

Recommended Resources

1. http://www.sdiworld.org/find_a_spiritual_director.html

2. http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog/topical-series-and-resources-on-the-spiritual-life/spiritual-direction

3. http://www.catholicspiritualdirection.org/

4. http://catholic.net/index.php?option=dedestaca&id=5558

Accountability

If you think having a spiritual advisor will help you, use the resources provided to get you started!

Author(s)

Tony Heekin

Included Resources

1. How do I find a spiritual director?
http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog/topical-series-and-resources-on-the-spiritual-life/spiritual-direction#ixzz1Vy2e5Qrp

Finding a spiritual director is a very personal and spiritual quest. We suggest a person seeking a spiritual director contact at least two spiritual directors to interview, if appropriate. Here are some ways to find spiritual directors to interview:

Search the Seek and Find Guide.

Call area theology schools, institutes and retreat centers and ask if they have a list of spiritual directors.

Ask an ordained minister or rabbi or vowed religious for names of spiritual directors they recommend. 

Attend a FREE SDI Teleconference to learn tips about how to seek and find a spiritual director. Click for upcoming teleconference dates and to RSVP.

Here are the kinds of questions that you might consider asking yourself when finding a spiritual directors to interview:

What is your experience with working with a spiritual director? Is this a first experience of spiritual direction? What brings you to spiritual direction at this time in your life?

Would you like to meet with a male or female?

What spiritual affiliation or denomination would be most helpful for you?

What time of day would best serve you for meetings?

The desire and search for the “right fit” is an important part of the process.
Spiritual Directors International publishes Guidelines for Ethical Conduct (in English and Spanish), which provides a framework for a healthy spiritual direction relationship. You may want to ask your prospective spiritual directors about their formation and training, on-going education, if they are in supervision for their ministry and if they abide by the Guidelines for Ethical Conduct. Ask the prospective spiritual directors if they have ever been denied liability insurance due to sexual misconduct or have been barred from membership in a professional association due to ethics violations.
Remember, it is up to you to choose your spiritual director wisely. Let them know what draws you to spiritual direction in this time in your life and notice how comfortable it is for you to tell your faith story. Listen carefully for the way the spirit is guiding you in your selection process.
Each person seeking a spiritual director needs to take reasonable steps to verify the competency of any potential spiritual director.  As a ministry in many nations and many faiths, spiritual direction does not have a centralized certifying body that verifies qualifications of spiritual directors since each faith tradition handles spiritual directors differently.
Spiritual Directors International does not endorse or recommend particular spiritual directors.  We are not a certifying body, but rather a global learning community that supports spiritual directors in their ministry with educational programs, publications and contemplative practices.
Spiritual Directors International recommends you ask each person you interview to become your spiritual director questions such as:

What enrichment, spiritual formation, and theological education do you have in spiritual direction?

What is your personal experience tending your own prayer, meditation and contemplative life?

What is your experience as a spiritual director?  How many years?  In what environments?  What are you most interested in spiritually?

How do you continue your education and supervision for your spiritual direction ministry?

What ethical guidelines do you abide by, such as those published by Spiritual Directors International? Have you ever been accused or convicted of misconduct?

What type of engagement agreement will we establish to clarify roles and responsibilities in our spiritual direction relationship, such as samples provided to members of Spiritual Directors International?


– Spiritual Direction

Finding, Selecting, and Initiating a Spiritual Direction Relationship

How do I find and select a spiritual director?

How do I determine if a spiritual director is faithful to the Church?

Finding a spiritual director – watch out for confused sheep

Faithful priests are too busy… what do I do? How can I find a spiritual director?

Concern about seeking out and approaching a spiritual director – Part I – Facing the challenge

Concern about seeking out and approaching a spiritual director – Part II – Getting the first meeting set up

Is it normal to feel apprehension about the spiritual direction process?

The Spiritual Direction Process and Expectations

What are the key characteristics of good spiritual direction?

How should I prepare for a meeting with my spiritual director?

Spiritual Direction Orientation – it takes time and patience

Spiritual direction reading plan

What is a program of life and why is it important to my spiritual growth and spiritual direction?

Other Spiritual Direction Perspective

Why would a saint need spiritual direction – Do I really need one?

No spiritual director in sight – how can I continue to grow in the mean time?

Can I be my own spiritual director? Still no spiritual director… what do I do in the mean time?

Skype and remote spiritual direction – is this ok?

I am new to spiritual direction and need some perspective…

Why would a priest take time for me?

Pope Benedict recommends spiritual direction

2. Ten Reasons to Have a Spiritual Director
http://catholic.net/index.php?option=dedestaca&id=5558

A Catholic without a spiritual director is like an Olympic athlete without a coach.

by Mary Houser, Consecrated woman | Source: Mater Ecclesiae College

A Catholic without a spiritual director is like an Olympic athlete without a coach.
To be a Catholic means that you are in a race for heaven. It means you’re trying to become a saint, not just to squeak through the pearly gates. 

The race to heaven isn’t a jog in the park; it’s an Olympic marathon.  If we are to finish this race, we need stamina and skill – which is where the coach comes in. 

Any athlete serious about his game will seek out the best coach he can find. And any Catholic serious about holiness would also do well to think about finding a spiritual director. 

Here are a few reasons why. 

1. Show yourself you care. If you care enough about a particular sport to have a coach, why not find one for the much more important game of life?  Going to the effort of finding a spiritual director and having spiritual direction will help you remember not to leave your spiritual life on the back burner.
2. Ask the saints: it’s recommended for holiness.  No one says you can’t get to heaven without one – but the saints agree: having a spiritual director makes it easier to reach holiness. 
3. It’s how God works.  Take one example: St. Paul.  He gets knocked off his horse – and God tells him to wait until Ananias tells him what he should do. God likes to speak to us through other people.  He worked this way all though the Bible and the Church’s history.  He does now too.
4. You’re not a one-man show.  Don’t pretend you can become holy on your own. Show God you rely on his help by allowing him to speak to you through someone else.
5. Constancy.  It’s easy to forget a New Year’s resolution tucked away in a drawer somewhere.  It’s easy to remember a resolution you talked to someone else about and are reminded of every now and then. Sometimes you need someone else to hold you accountable. 
6. You can’t even see the end of your nose. It’s hard to focus on something too close to us (like our noses). Sometimes you’re too close to yourself to be an objective judge of your actions, relationships, and plans.  Since a spiritual director isn’t you, they’re able to see things more objectively and help you see that way too.  With prayer and the help of the Holy Spirit, they help you discern what God’s will for you is in the daily circumstances of our life now. 
7. Encouragement.  Living a holy life isn’t easy.  A spiritual director encourages you on this path and helps you keep going. A kind, understanding word can mean the world when you feel like giving up.
8. Expertise.  A good spiritual guide will have some experience in prayer and spiritual life. He or she will be able to give you helpful advice.  And the more they get to know you, the more they can tailor their advice to your particular situation and needs.
9. Peace.  There’s a unique peace that comes from spiritual direction.  Opening your soul to your spiritual director, being known and loved for who you are, and hearing God speak to you through him or her will fill your soul with the confidence and security that only the love of God can bring.
10. Prayer support.  Don’t underestimate the power of prayer!  Having your spiritual director’s prayers backing you up will help you on your path much more than you’ll ever know!

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Apologetics – Defending the Catholic Faith

September 7, 2011 under Syllabus 2011-2012

Summary

Have you ever been asked “why are you a Catholic”? Did you pause or feel incomplete in your response? Learn how Apologetics is not only a way to present a rational basis to help you defend your Christian faith, but an invitation to you to learn your faith more deeply so that you feel moved to share your faith.

Objective

We are constantly bombarded with the messages that religion is for the stone ages and not for the modern culture, that it has no grounds in reality and cannot be proven. Use this session to explore what Apologetics is and how every Catholic should be familiar with it. Discuss what the bible commands us about defending the faith, and investigate who among attending Fathers has recently experienced a new level of understanding his faith, read an exceptional book about your faith, or experienced a challenge of our faith.

Bible Readings

1. 1 Peter 3:15-16

15 “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, 16 but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.”

2. Romans 1:19-23

19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

3. Philippians 1:7

7 “you who are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.”

4. Psalms 119

46 “I will speak openly of your decrees without fear even before kings.”

5. Mathew 10:16-20

16 “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves. 17 But beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. 19 When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. 20 For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

6. Luke 12:8-9

8 “I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God. 9 But whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God.”

7. John 6:67-69

67 Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

8. Mathew 16:18

18 “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”

Catechism Readings

1. Paragraph 849

The missionary mandate. “Having been divinely sent to the nations that she might be ‘the universal sacrament of salvation,’ the Church, in obedience to the command of her founder and because it is demanded by her own essential universality, strives to preach the Gospel to all men”: “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 Lo, I am with you always, until the close of the age.”

2. Paragraph 856

“The missionary task implies a respectful dialogue with those who do not yet accept the Gospel. Believers can profit from this dialogue by learning to appreciate better “those elements of truth and grace which are found among peoples, and which are, as it were, a secret presence of God.” They proclaim the Good News to those who do not know it, in order to consolidate, complete, and raise up the truth and the goodness that God has distributed among men and nations, and to purify them from error and evil “for the glory of God, the confusion of the demon, and the happiness of man.”

3. Paragraphs 905

Lay people also fulfill their prophetic mission by evangelization, “that is, the proclamation of Christ by word and the testimony of life.” For lay people, “this evangelization . . . acquires a specific property and peculiar efficacy because it is accomplished in the ordinary circumstances of the world. This witness of life, however, is not the sole element in apostolate; the true apostle in on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers…or to the faithful.”

Small Group Questions

1. Why are you a Catholic? Born a Catholic but not sure you have the bedrock to defend the faith?

2. What is it about the Catholic faith that makes you feel special, go to church on Sunday, and teach it to your children?

3. Are there any ways that your team might be able to improve your knowledge of the Catholic faith so you could defend it?

Recommended Resources

1. http://www.catholicapologetics.org/

2. “A Pocket Guide to Catholic Apologetics” By Patrick Madrid, published by Our Sunday Visitor

3. “Top Ten Reasons It’s Great to be Catholic” Posted on Catechism on Call: http://catechismoncall.wordpress.com/2008/11/23/top-ten-reasons-its-great-to-be-catholic/

Accountability

1. Take an action to increase your knowledge of your faith this week and church teaching.

a. Listen to “Catholic Answers Live” on Sacred Heart Radio from 6:00-8:00pm M-Fr

b. Watch “Why be Catholic” by Tim Staples on YouTube

c. Look up other religions and how they are different from the Catholic faith.

2. Increase your knowledge and pray for the ability to share and defend your faith.

3. Consider starting an Apologetics group in Fathers Team with study material like: http://www.catholicapologetics.org/

Author(s)

Dan Lape, attempting to update original material by Michael Copfer

Included Resources

1. Dealing with …“Strangers at Your Door” By Albrt J. Nevins, M.M., published by Our Sunday Visitor

What is Apologetics and why do we should we be familiar with it?

“Apologetics is that branch of theology devoted to the defense (through reason) of the origin, authority and teachings of the Church. Apologetics is not to be regarded as a purely defensive measure. It should indicate a readiness to share one’s faith with another. Vatican II saw the whole church in mission, and the Code of Canon Law reminds each Catholic that his or her basic vocation is a missionary one. Apologetics is not to be made combatively but in a way that allows our own missionary vocation free rein. Faith, like love, cannot be forced. It must be won by truth and charity.”

“Apologetics must be a familiar science for the believer in order to confirm his or her own beliefs, and by doing so to be able to present those beliefs to others, not in a watered-down version to approximate the level of the unbeliever, but as an uncompromising presentation of the teachings of Jesus ”

2. http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=5041

Why become a Catholic from Catholic Answers Forum:

Question . A friend recently asked me, what applicable difference would it make if one were a devout Catholic or a devout Protestant? Suppose that 2 people were either of these. In application, both spend their lives living for Christ but they have different understandings of this. For one, the Christian life is centered around the Eucharist and for the other the Christian life is centered around the Scriptures. But in application, neither one is better than the other. Both are getting to heaven.
My question is: What significant difference is there between a devout and faithful Catholic and Protestant? The Catholic Church does not teach that devout Protestants are going to hell but rather that Christ’s faithful too (regardless of denomination) can go to heaven.

Answer 1. If it were possible to say that someone who is “devout” will remain so forever, then I would agree with your friend’s sentiment. We know, however, that people are constantly tested and constantly fall short. Christianity is more than just an end result, it is a day to day practice and faith that leads to an end. The Protestant has a much bigger battle ahead of them because they don’t have the grace of the Sacrements bolstering their faith, and they don’t have the same level of protection from error because they lack the Magisterium. On another level, Catholics are simply that much more able to appreciate God’s Kingdom while they live because the Church is the earthly manifestation of that Kingdom.
It’s like asking why the marked and cleared path up the mountain is better than the rocky, winding one. If you are strong enough to make it to the top the painful way, and the top is your only consideration, then I suppose it wouldn’t make a difference. If, however, you wanted your less able companions to join you, and you wanted to have a pleasant journey as well as reach the peak, then the trail is FAR superior to the untraveled, unmarked path.
Why make things harder for yourself if you don’t have to?

Answer 2. I completely agree with this statement (in A1). The fact is that the Catholic Church has sacraments which the Protestant churches do not. These sacraments are a way of receiving an outpouring of God’s grace. I explain it like this to my daughter (age 7): It is much like eating a well balanced diet, exercising, and taking vitamins. Some people do this while others to not. Those that do not can have more problems during their lifetime – maybe even die at younger ages. But those that do have a better chance of a healthier life. Obviously, vitamins are nowhere near the benefits of God’s grace but you get the idea.

3. Eight Good Reasons for Being Catholic by Richard Rohr, O.F.M., and Joseph Martos

http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac0888.asp

Many of us who are older and who grew up in the Church before the Second Vatican Council never seriously faced the question, “Why be Catholic?” Not being Catholic was almost unthinkable for us, as unthinkable as not being American.

Yet today, many people are in fact asking the question, “Why be Catholic?” They ask that question when their parish liturgy becomes intolerably boring, when they disagree with the pope or bishops on social issues, when they divorce and remarry and are told that they can’t receive Communion. Often the question is, “Why remain Catholic?”

Following Vatican II, Catholics rightly rethought the narrow approach they had taken with the belief that outside the Church there is no salvation. They broadened the idea of salvation so that it could embrace God’s love for all Christians, and indeed all persons of good faith.

If good people of other religious persuasions can be saved, then why be—or remain—Catholic?

The answer is Catholicism’s rich 2,000-year tradition of living the gospel. And this tradition is a “wisdom tradition.” Unlike some of the younger Churches which sprang up after the Protestant Reformation and often splintered into further divisions, Catholicism has maintained unity and diversity over the course of 20 centuries. It embraces the wisdom of the ancient world, the Middle Ages and modern times.

We can summarize the wisdom of the Catholic tradition under eight headings. Each of these values represents not only a challenge but also a good reason for being Catholic.

1. An optimistic view of creation

There is an old poem that reads: “Wherever the Catholic sun does shine, There’s music, laughter and good red wine. At least, I’ve always found it so: Benedicamus Domino!”

The last line is Latin for “Let us bless the Lord!” And this poem captures a very basic Catholic sensibility: that creation is good. It represents God’s wisdom as God looked out on the world just after its creation and pronounced it “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

From time to time some Christians have not believed in the full goodness of creation. Early Gnostics and other “super-spiritual” groups felt that the material world was bad—but they were regarded as heretics by the majority of the Christians. In the Middle Ages some monks thought that sex was sinful—but the Church replied by affirming the sacramentality of marriage. A few centuries ago Catholic puritans (called Jansenists) condemned all worldliness and sensuality—but the Church officially rejected their teaching.

Many of us who come from northern European backgrounds (especially Irish and German) inherited this Jansenistic negativity anyway. Priests, nuns and others who shaped attitudes often portrayed sexual misconduct as the worst possible sin. As Americans we also adopted a good deal of puritanism from our Protestant neighbors. Our immigrant grandparents didn’t want to appear less moral than the people around them!

The older and larger Catholic tradition, however, has Mediterranean roots. Palestinians and Greeks, Italians and French, Spanish and Portuguese have generally been more comfortable with their bodies than northern Europeans. Peasants and poor people—most “Catholic countries” even today are poor—have always been among those who best appreciate the good things that nature has to offer. Food and drink, sex and children are the simple but most basic pleasures that life can give us. They are, after all, gifts from God intended for our enjoyment when wisely used.

This is why Catholicism is fundamentally sacramental. A sacrament is a sign of God’s goodness to us. Catholic wisdom says that the world and everything in it is a gift from God and a sign of God. The seven sacraments we celebrate in church use water and oil, bread and wine, and human touch as signs of God’s graciousness. Catholics see God shining through all of creation, and so they use the gifts of creation in their most important rituals. Thus Catholics are very comfortable bringing sculpture, painting, stained-glass windows, music, drama and other elements of the created world into their worship.

2. A universal vision

The original meaning of the word catholic is “universal.” The Church was first called catholic in ancient times after the entire Roman Empire had been converted to Christianity. The first universal Church council met in Nicaea in the year 325, and in similar councils the world’s bishops formulated the Church’s catholic faith. The summary of that worldwide faith is the Nicene Creed, which we say at Mass every Sunday.

The Catholic Church still has a worldwide faith, and the Church’s vision is still universal. Pope John Paul II travels every year to meet Catholics around the world. The Pope’s vision and the Church’s vision stretch beyond national boundaries. Wherever the pope goes he is greeted by Catholics—our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

The Catholic Church is not a national Church. It is one of the few truly international institutions in the world today. The Catholic Church is also a multicultural Church. It is not just European and American but also Latino and African and Asian. People of every race and culture embrace the Catholic faith and are embraced by the universal Church.

Because the Church is universal, it calls us to a universal vision. As the world gets smaller every year, we need to regard everyone in it as our neighbor. Our faith is already larger than most of us realize, challenging our narrowness and preparing us for global citizenship. The pastoral letters of the U.S. bishops on peacemaking and on economic justice seek to promote this global outlook.

If we are truly Catholic, we must look at the world and all people in it from God’s perspective, and not from a nationalistic or ethnocentric point of view. The Catholic vision, when fully lived, reflects God’s concern for the entire human family.

3. A holistic outlook

The Church has always been concerned with holiness. At times in the past people have equated holiness with becoming a plaster saint, aloof from others and abstracted from life. Today we realize that holiness is wholeness. And if we look at the Catholic past, we see that this wholeness has always been the ideal.

Catholicism has never said you need to be a secluded monk or a cloistered nun to be holy. When we look at the Church’s calendar of saints, we see fishermen and farmers, husbands and wives, rich and poor, soldiers and scholars, even kings and queens honored there. Everyone is called to achieve his/her fullest potential, to be a truly whole and holy person.

This holistic spirituality is very rewarding, but it is also very demanding. Catholic holiness is not a Jesus-and-me attitude. It’s not enough to go to Church on Sunday and leave the rest of your life unchanged. True holiness requires a conversion of the whole person, a transformation of the total personality, a concern for bodily as well as spiritual health, and a balance between prayer and action. This may require a conversion of our lifestyle, no matter where we live or what we do for a living.

4. Personal growth

The Catholic vision of human potential begins with conversion—a conversion that is ongoing. It sees life as a process of continuous conversion and growth. There is no one moment when a Catholic claims to be “saved,” as fundamentalists do. The stories of the saints show that they continuously strove for holiness. Even the Catholic devotion known as the Stations of the Cross suggests that the Christian life is a process, a journey that goes through stages, introducing us to different challenges, pitfalls and personalities along the way. Those who persevere in fidelity and trust enter more deeply into God’s life.

Fortunately, our salvation and our happiness do not depend on us alone. God is with us and lovingly takes the initiative in offering us salvation and calling us to holiness. This is the meaning of grace. Grace is God’s invitation and power reaching into us. But we have to open ourselves to God in order to be filled with the Spirit. We have to cooperate with grace.

Curiously, our cooperation is not so much a “doing” as a “not doing.” The wisdom of the saints is that they stopped long enough to listen to God in their hearts and let God tell them how to be truly happy. Growth in the Spirit, growth in spiritual perfection (as we used to call it), is the same as growing in Christ. It means surrendering our own shortsightedness about what we can be and entering into the process of becoming like Christ.

Paradoxically, personal fulfillment means abandoning ourselves and putting others first. In the Catholic tradition, ultimate satisfaction is promised to those who give up their desire for self-satisfaction. This is part of the meaning of crucifixion. The cross leads to resurrection, to new life. When we let go of ourselves, our lives become filled with grace. The lives of St. Francis of Assisi, Pope John XXIII and Mother Teresa of Calcutta radiate a grace that people of all religious traditions admire.

5. Social transformation

Society has been transformed again and again by Christianity. Jesus proclaimed the coming of God’s Kingdom, and the Church has tried again and again to make the Kingdom real. The Church has always been concerned for human betterment.

In ancient Rome the Church protested against gladiator fights and other forms of killing for sport. In the Middle Ages, prophetic voices in the Church were raised to defend the peasants against the tyranny of the nobles. Monasteries were the first hospitals for the sick and the first hotels for weary pilgrims. The Church has always cared for widows and orphans. It has fought against slavery, against the dehumanization of factory workers and against the exploitation of migrant laborers. In the 1960’s Catholics marched for civil rights, and today they march for the right to life in its many forms as well as for many other social causes.

This concern for the poor and the underprivileged springs directly from the Catholic understanding of holistic growth and universal salvation. God wants everyone to reach full potential as a human being created in God’s image. This means first having basic human needs met and then growing to full maturity in Christ through meeting the needs of others. The gospel is a message to be shared at every level of human life, and the good news is that God’s power is available to redeem the world.

Accepting the Catholic vision means never accepting things the way they are. People are always hurting and suffering oppression. People are always needing to be healed and set free. But to stop much of the pain and hurt, society itself has to be transformed. Being Catholic means standing with those social reformers who have always wanted to change the world, making it more like God’s Kingdom.

6. A communal spirit

To a great extent, we in America have lost the Catholic sense of community. Our large parishes are often very impersonal; at Sunday Mass most people feel more like an anonymous audience than a faith community.

The reason for this is that we Catholics have bought into the American myths of rugged individualism and middle-class success. We believe that we have to make it on our own and that, if we are successful, we should have our own separate houses , our own private cars, and all the appliances to live comfortably by ourselves.

This individualism and self-centeredness is disastrous for community. It is not the ideal taught us by our Catholic tradition. The Christian way of living is communitarian. Early Christians were so connected to one another that St. Paul called each community a “body of Christ.” When the Church grew larger, some Spirit-led Christians left the cities to live together in the countryside. They worked and prayed together in what were then called monasteries. Today we might call them Christian communes.

Monasteries were centers of Christian living all around Europe in the Middle Ages. In time, community-minded Christians discovered other ways of joining their lives together even in cities. Usually these communities focused on some apostolic work such as caring for the sick, the homeless or the uneducated. That’s the origin of today’s religious orders.

The peculiarly Catholic gift to the Church is community. Protestantism broke away from the tradition of monasteries and religious orders. This is not to say religious orders are the only way of achieving a communal spirit within the Catholic and Protestant traditions. Indeed, in many cases, Catholics can learn much from the degree of “fellowship” achieved in numerous Protestant communions. However, Catholic theology—if not always our practice—challenges us to see the Church as community.

Today, when many of our traditional orders have grown to institutional proportions, Catholics are searching for new forms of communal life. Many in religious orders are moving into smaller, more personal living arrangements. Prayer groups, spiritual movements and base communities are all attempts to revive this Catholic charism in a modern setting. In our individualistic society, there is a felt need for this gift of community.

7. A profound sense of history

The Catholic Church has been around for a long time—nearly 20 centuries. That’s four or five times the age of the oldest Protestant denominations, and 10 times as old as the United States. Belonging to a Church with that sort of history gives us a unique historical perspective. At least, it should!

Too often we as Americans live in the immediacy of the present. We forget that most of the problems we face today as individuals and as a society have been addressed by the Church for centuries and centuries. How quickly we forget that the English once were our enemies, as were the Germans and the Japanese even more recently. How quickly we forget the conversion of Russia some 1,000 years ago, and that the majority of people who live under communism are Christians. When we forget that most people who would be killed by our nuclear attack are our sisters and brothers in Christ, it is easy to picture them as our enemies. Yet our history shows that those who were once considered enemies can become friends.

In its 2,000 years, the Church has lived under kings and emperors, in democracies and dictatorships, under capitalism and communism. The Catholic perspective on history shows that we do not have to fear any political or economic system. The gospel can be lived in any place, at any time, under any conditions. Our strong sense of roots and continuity with a rich Catholic past is certainly a value to be cherished.

8. A respect for human knowledge

After philosophy (which dates back to pre-Christian times) the oldest intellectual discipline in the world is theology. Catholicism has never been a matter of blind faith. One of the earliest definitions of theology is “faith seeking understanding.” The Catholic ideal is to respect reason and promote understanding.

When barbarian tribes swept across Europe and caused the fall of the Roman Empire, monks carefully copied fragile manuscripts so that ancient science would not be lost. Even in the “Dark Ages” that bred the anti-intellectualism of the Inquisition, Christian scholars were founding schools which eventually became the great universities of Europe. Despite the obtuseness of the Church officials who condemned Galileo, modern science grew out of the efforts of Christians to understand the universe that God created.

St. Augustine tried to understand all of history from the perspective of Catholic faith. St. Thomas Aquinas studied all medieval science before writing his great Summa Theologica, a four-volume “summary” of theology. Other Catholic scholars advanced medicine, law, astronomy and biology. Catholics believe that if they are firmly grounded in their faith, they do not have to feel threatened by any scientific knowledge. Teilhard de Chardin integrated evolution into his Christian understanding of the cosmos.

This openness to human knowledge is not true of all Christians today. Some fundamentalists close their eyes against the evidence for evolution. Others insist so strongly on the truth of the Bible that they have little respect for what psychology and sociology can teach us. Some Catholics fall into this same trap regarding Church dogmas. But the broader Catholic wisdom is that all truth comes from God, whether it is revealed or discovered.

Our heritage points to Christ

To be truly Catholic therefore means to enter into the Catholic wisdom tradition. It means appreciating all of creation and looking at the world from a universal perspective. It means adopting a holistic outlook that encourages personal growth and social transformation. It means building community and learning from history. It means not being afraid to ask questions about faith, about the Church, or about the world in which we live.

Yet all this heritage is pointless unless it also points us to Christ, and to living the gospel. The reason for accepting the Catholic tradition is to learn better from our rich past how to live our faith more deeply today.

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Accepting Children with Special Needs

September 7, 2011 under Syllabus 2011-2012

Summary

Fathers all react differently when they learn about a child with special needs. We, as protectors and providers, can learn about the tolerance, acceptance and greater love that happens every day in our community and, sometimes, in our own family.

Objective

From http://www.mrdad.com/qa/schoolage/special-needs.htm

Conservatively speaking, around 15 percent of preschool and school-age children in the US have one or more “chronic conditions.” These could be anything from asthma and autism to cancer and cerebral palsy.

That basically means that any given Friday morning, approximately 7 or more dads in attendance are included in this statistic. In other words, either our own family is affected; or we know one that is.

These families have extra layers of stress: mentally, physically, emotionally & financially. As fathers, we want to act as a pillar of strength for the rest of our family by fulfilling our duties as protector and provider.

Having a child with a chronic condition-whether it’s a physical or mental one-puts a lot of stress on the entire family. Fathers and mothers have very different ways of reacting to this stress. Mothers typically worry more about the emotional strain of caring for a child and how the child will do socially. Fathers are concerned with more practical things, such as how to talk about the issue with family and friends, how the child will function in school, whether he’ll eventually become self-sufficient. Many dads also experience a heightened sense of responsibility and protectiveness.
Although mothers are generally more involved in day-to-day caring of kids with chronic conditions, fathers are affected just as deeply by the emotional strain and often have an especially hard time coping. Part of the problem is a series of vicious circles:
Some of dads’ biggest worries have to do with finances: can they afford to pay for treatments, tutors, and special medical attention, is their insurance coverage adequate, and so on. To combat those worries, dads may spend more time at work. That makes them feel better because they’re easing their financial concerns. Plus, for many men, their jobs are a source of satisfaction, a place where they feel in control. But the more time they spend at work, the less available they are to spend with their children and the less they’re able to be involved in treatment plans and meetings with professionals. As a result, they don’t get information first-hand and feel out of the loop. It’s a tough merry-go-round to get off of.

Being around children with disabilities can be a great teaching moment for our children. Learning about tolerance and acceptance are natural topics. However, gratefulness and humility are easy to interject, as well.

Bible Readings

1. 1 Corinthians 12:22, 23

Those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor

2. Matthew 19:13-14

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

3. Matthew 25:42-46

For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’

Small Group Questions

1. How has your family or a family you know faced a “chronic” condition with a child?

2. Do you feel like need help or could offer help?

3. Are you getting (or fighting for) all the resources your child needs?

Recommended Resources

1. www.fathersnetwork.org

Accountability

1. With respect to your children’s health and care, are you and your wife a team on the same mission?

2. Reach out to a family in need.

Author(s)

Anthony Your, Reid Rooney

Included Resources

  1. Teaching Your Child about Peers with Special Needs
    http://www.care.com/special-needs-teaching-your-child-about-peers-with-special-needs-p1017-q598.html

Disabilities cover a wide range. Some are obvious — such as a child with a physical disability who uses a wheelchair or a child with a visual impairment who uses a cane to navigate when walking. Other disabilities may be more “hidden” — for example, children who have learning disabilities or autism spectrum disorder.

Chances are that at some point your child will have a classmate with a disability. Just as you guided your very young child when he or she began to befriend others, you can encourage your child to learn about and be a friend to children who have disabilities.

Basic ideas to share with your child

· No two people are the same — some differences are just more noticeable.

· A disability is only one characteristic of a person. People have many facets: likes and dislikes, strengths and challenges.

· Children with disabilities are like all children in that they want friends, respect and to be included.

· Children can be born disabled or become disabled from an accident or illness. You can’t “catch” a disability from someone else.

· Just because someone has a physical disability (when a part or parts of the body do not work well) does not mean they necessarily have a cognitive (or thinking) disability.

· Children with disabilities can do many of the things your child does, but it might take them longer. They may need assistance or adaptive equipment to help them.

Try to use clear, respectful language when talking about someone with disabilities. For a younger child, keep explanations simple, such as, “She uses a wheelchair because a part of her body does not work as well as it could.”

Reinforce with your child that name calling — even if meant as a joke — is always unacceptable as it hurts people’s feelings.

  1. CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
    http://www.mrdad.com/qa/schoolage/special-needs.htm (continued from “Objective”)

Not surprisingly, conflict, tension, and even divorce are more common in families with a disabled child. But fortunately, there are some ways of reducing the strain.

· Join a support group. Researchers have found that men who get involved with other fathers who are facing the same issues (in a guy-only environment) feel less sadness, fatigue, pessimism, guilt, and stress, and have more feelings of satisfaction and success, fewer problems, and better decision-making abilities than dads who don’t join groups. These benefits will rub off on your relationship with your partner as well.

· Explore every possible resource for help. If your friends are able to step in, that’ll help. But also check with your local school district to see what kinds of resources they have. In addition, About.com (specialchildren.about.com) has a good collection of resources, and Exceptional Parent magazine (eparent.com) provides info, support, and resources for parents and families of children with disabilities. Also, be sure to check out The Fathers Network (fathersnetwork.org), a site specifically devoted to helping fathers of children with disabilities.

· Play and communicate with your child. Researchers at the University of Florida did a study where they taught dads to use everyday activities like building blocks, puppets, cars and trucks, and bubbles to connect with their autistic children. But there was a twist. The fathers were instructed to follow the child’s lead, wait for the child’s response before continuing, and not give into the temptation to direct the play. The results were wonderful. “Fathers were more likely to initiate play in an animated way and responded more to their children during playtime,” said Jennifer Elder, the lead researcher. “Children also became more vocal and were more than twice as likely to initiate play with their fathers. With the proper training at an early age, we feel that these techniques can help autistic children be more socially interactive and pick up language more easily.”

One particularly interesting result that the researchers hadn’t expected was that a lot of the fathers trained the mothers and siblings to do the same thing. Elder and her colleagues had done similar studies training mothers and have very much the same successes. The only difference was that mothers weren’t as likely to teach the dads what they’d learned.

  1. Fathering Special Needs Children
    http://fatherwork.byu.edu/specialNeeds.htm

FatherWork with special-needs children should and can be as wonderful and varied as special-needs kids themselves are. Fathers of special-needs children are ordinary men doing both ordinary and extraordinary things since parents of special-needs kids do the same things other parents do but usually have added burdens (and, often, added joys). Fatherwork with special-needs kids can be like the Special Olympics. Fathers can coach children to develop skills and confidence, provide opportunities for accomplishment, give encouragement and supportive cheering along the way, and present them with rewards for effort and accomplishment.

Every special-needs child deserves a father that runs and jumps with her through the challenges of life, one that enthusiastically hugs him at the end of each little success, one that hangs medals on his neck with pride and love in his eyes, and one that, through his constant encouragement and love, places a continual stream of flowers in her hands. Your child (and all special-needs children) needs the coaching, cheering, encouraging, and assisting that you uniquely can give.

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Understanding and Living God’s Will

September 7, 2011 under Syllabus 2011-2012

Summary

Christ taught us that knowing God’s will and living in obedience to that will is the key to it all! God is the potter; we are the clay. God keeps us spinning on His potter’s wheel, shaping and reshaping us as He bathes our lives in tears to make us more Christ-like so He can use us for His will. Surrender daily. Keep your clay moist through daily prayer – prayer that’s in accordance to His will.

Objective:

Our job, our purpose is to understand and live in God’s will and not be selective when times get tough.

Bible Readings

1. Matthew 7:21

Not everyone who says to me “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

2. Matthew 12:50

For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother and sister and mother.

3. Romans 12:2

Do not conform yourself to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

Catechism Readings

III. “THY WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN”

1. Paragraph 2822

Our Father “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” He “is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish.” His commandment is “that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” This commandment summarizes all the others and expresses his entire will.

2. Paragraph 2825

“Although he was a Son, [Jesus] learned obedience through what he suffered.” How much more reason have we sinful creatures to learn obedience – we who in him have become children of adoption. We ask our Father to unite our will to his Son’s, in order to fulfill his will, his plan of salvation for the life of the world. We are radically incapable of this, but united with Jesus and with the power of his Holy Spirit, we can surrender our will to him and decide to choose what his Son has always chosen: to do what is pleasing to the Father.

In committing ourselves to [Christ], we can become one spirit with him, and thereby accomplish his will, in such wise that it will be perfect on earth as it is in heaven.

Consider how Jesus Christ] teaches us to be humble, by making us see that our virtue does not depend on our work alone but on grace from on high. He commands each of the faithful who prays to do so universally, for the whole world. For he did not say “thy will be done in me or in us,” but “on earth,” the whole earth, so that error may be banished from it, truth take root in it, all vice be destroyed on it, virtue flourish on it, and earth no longer differ from heaven.

3. Paragraph 2826

By prayer we can discern “what is the will of God” and obtain the endurance to do it. Jesus teaches us that one enters the kingdom of heaven not by speaking words, but by doing “the will of my Father in heaven.”

4. Paragraph 2827

“If anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.” Such is the power of the Church’s prayer in the name of her Lord, above all in the Eucharist. Her prayer is also a communion of intercession with the all-holy Mother of God and all the saints who have been pleasing to the Lord because they willed his will alone:

It would not be inconsistent with the truth to understand the words, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” to mean: “in the Church as in our Lord Jesus Christ himself”; or “in the Bride who has been betrothed, just as in the Bridegroom who has accomplished the will of the Father.”

Small Group Questions

1. Think about a situation you have been in lately where you did not live God’s will. Discuss that situation and what caused you to make the choice you made.

2. What action can you take the next time so the outcome is different?

3. At this point in your life what level of commitment do you have to living God’s will and not your will? Discuss ways you can improve upon making the right choice.

Recommended Resources

1. Sermon 19b 2009: Living in God’s Will Day by Day
http://www.stdavidschurch.org/worshipmusic/files/file1/Sermon%20091309%20WFA.pdf

2. Book: Living Your Strengths: Discover Your God-Given Talents and Inspire Your Community (Catholic Edition) [Hardcover] by Albert L. Winseman

3. Book: Finding God’s Will for You [Paperback] by St. Francis de Sales (Author)

Accountability

1. This week would be a good time to start thinking of various ways we can let go of some of our selfish ways as we strive to live closer to God’s will for our life.

2. Offer some thoughts to the small group or simply contemplate in your mind and heart how you can improve and become a better version of yourself.

3. Consider an action you will take this week to better understand God’s will and commit to it. Report to the small group your observations and progress during the next meeting.

Author(s)

Graham Galloway (Previous Author: Steve Green)

Included Resources

A Living Sacrifice to God

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual* act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  Romans 12:1-2

LETTER: “The less self-willed we are, the easier it will be to us to follow God’s will.” By St. Francis de Sales

We must recollect that there is no vocation without its wearinesses, its bitternesses, and its trials; and moreover (except in the case of those who are wholly resigned to the will of God,) each one would willingly change his condition with that of others. Those who are Ministers, would fain be otherwise. They who are married, would they were not. They who are not, would they were. From whence proceeds this general discontentedness, if it be not a certain rebellion against constraint, and an evil spirit in us that makes each one think another’s condition better than his own?

But it is all one; and whosoever is not entirely resigned, but keeps on turning this way and that, never will find peace. When a person has a fever, he finds no place comfortable; he has not remained in one bed a quarter of an hour, before he wishes to be in another. It is not the bed which is in fault, but the fever, which torments him everywhere. And so a person who has not the fever of self-will, is contented everywhere and in all things, provided God be glorified. He cares not in what capacity God employs him, provided he can do therein His Divine will.

But this is not all. We must not only do the will of God, but to be really devout, we must do it cheerfully, nay, joyfully. If I were not a Bishop, perhaps, knowing what I now do, I might wish not to be one. But being one, not only am I obliged to do all that this difficult vocation requires, but I must do it joyfully, and make it agreeable to myself to do it. This is what St. Paul means when he says, “Let every man in the vocation in which he is called, therein abide with God.”1

We cannot bear the crosses of others, but each one must bear his own; and that we may each bear our own, our Lord would that each should renounce himself; that is to say, his own will. “I wish this or that” I should be better here or there.” These are temptations. Our Lord knows best what is best for each one of us; let us do what He wills, and remain where He has placed us.

But you have asked me to give you a few practical rules for your guidance. Besides all I have told you above, you should, First, meditate every day, either in the morning or before dinner or supper, and especially on the Life and Death of our Lord, and you can make use of any book that may assist you. Your meditation should never last above half-an-hour; at the end of each always add a consideration of the obedience which our Lord exercised towards God His Father: for you will see that all He did was done in obedience to the will of God; and considering this will rouse you more earnestly to strive to learn His will yourself. Secondly, before you do or prepare to do any of those duties of your calling which are apt to irritate you, think of the saints of old, who joyfully endured great and grievous things,—some suffering martyrdom, some dishonor in this world; some binding up ulcers and fearful sores; some banishing themselves into the desert; some working among slaves in the galleys: and each and all to do something pleasing in the sight of God. And what are we called upon to do, approaching to such trials as these?

Thirdly, Often think that the real value of whatever we do, is proportioned by the conformity with which we do it to the will of God. If in merely eating or drinking I do it because it is the will of God that I should, I am doing what is more agreeable to Him, than if I were to do what should even cost me my life, without any such Divine intention.

Fourthly, I would advise you often during the day, beseech God that He would inspire you with a real love of your vocation, and that you should say, like St. Paul, when he was converted, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?2 Wouldest Thou that I should serve Thee in the lowest office in Thy house? I will reckon myself here, too blest. Provided that I serve Thee, I care not in what capacity.” And coming more particularly to what is vexing you, say, “Wouldest Thou that I should do such-and-such a thing? Alas! O Lord, though I am not worthy, willingly will I do it:” and by these means you may greatly humble yourself; and oh, what a treasure you will obtain! Far, far greater, doubtless, than you can ever estimate!

Fifthly, I would wish that you should consider how many saints have been in your position of life and vocation, and how they all accommodated themselves to it with great meekness and resignation; as many in the Old Testament as in the New,—Sara, and Rebecca, and Elizabeth, and the holy Anna, and St. Paul, and hundreds of others; and let their example encourage you. We must love what God loves; and if He loves our vocation, let us love it also; and let us not amuse ourselves, by placing ourselves in the position of others. Let us diligently do our business. For each his own cross is not too much. Gently mingle the office of Martha with that of Mary, diligently doing the duties of your calling, often recollecting yourself, and placing yourself in spirit at the foot of the Cross, and saying, “My Lord, whether I run, or whether I stand still, or whatever I do, I am Thine, and Thou art mine. Thou art my first Love, my Spouse, and all that I do, it is for Thee, whatsoever it be.”

Further, every evening examine yourself, and throughout the day constantly raise ejaculatory prayers to God. I recommend, for your reading, the “Spiritual Combat.” Communicate, if possible, every week, and regularly attend the services of the Church on Sundays and Festivals. Remember also what I have often told you,—be just to yourself in the devoted life you are leading; I mean, let others, and especially those of your own family, see its blessed effects in yourself, and be led to honor it accordingly. We must always be careful not to make our devotion annoying to others. What we cannot do without annoyance, especially to those placed over us, we should leave undone: and believe me this spiritual self-denial and privation, so far from being displeasing to God, will be accepted by Him as such, and turn to your own profit. Deny yourself willingly; and in proportion as you are hindered from doing the good you desire, strive so much the more zealously to do what you do not desire. Perhaps it is difficult for you to resign yourself patiently and gladly to these privations, but in doing so, you will gain for yourself real benefit. In all commit your cares and trials, and contradictions, and whatever befalls you to God, comforting yourself in the thought, that He blesses those who are holy, or those who are striving to become so. Keep your heart ready to bear every sort of cross and disappointment with resignation, for the sake of Him Who has borne so much for us: and may He fill thy heart and be thy guide through life!

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The Seven Gifts Holy Spirit

September 7, 2011 under Syllabus 2011-2012

Summary

What are the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit? Do you have them? Have you asked for them? Are you prepared to receive them?

Objective

The Objective is become familiar with the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit and to be open and prepared to receive them.

“Only one thing is important — eternal salvation. Only one thing, therefore, is to be feared—sin.· Sin is the result of ignorance, weakness, and indifference. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Light, of Strength, and of Love. With His sevenfold gifts, He enlightens the mind, strengthens the will, and inflames the heart with love of God. To ensure our salvation we ought to invoke the Divine Spirit daily, for “The Spirit helpeth our infirmity. We know not what we should pray for as we ought. But the Spirit Himself asketh for us.” (From the Novena to the Holy Spirit)

After being enlightened or receiving the Gifts of the Holy Spirit that you asked for, you become an Apostle of the Holy Spirit by proceeding to carry out what you now presume you are to do. You will know you are doing His will because you will feel His presence in your heart and you will be filled with his rewards: love, joy, peace or any other of the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit. (From Listening to the Holy Spirit by George E. Schullhoff A.H.S.)

Bible Readings

1. Isaiah Chapter 11: 1-3

But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.

2. John 14:15-17, 25-26

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.

I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name–he will teach you everything and remind you of all that (I) told you.

3. 2 Timothy 1:3

For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.

4. 1 Corinthians 6:19

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?

5. Wisdom 1:4

Because into a soul that plots evil wisdom enters not, nor dwells she in a body under debt of sin.

6. Romans 8:9-14

But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you. Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness. If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you. Consequently, brothers, we are not debtors to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

Catechism Readings

1. Paragraph 1830

“The moral life of Christians is sustained by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are permanent dispositions which make man docile in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.”

2. Paragraph 1831

“The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David. They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.”

Small Group Questions

1. Do you feel connected to the Holy Spirit?

2. Have you ever asked the Holy Spirit for his Seven Gifts?

3. Which of the Gifts do you feel that you have in abundance and which are you lacking?

4. Has the Holy Spirit ever inspired you to do anything? Explain.

Recommended Resources

1. Novena to the Holy Spirit for the Seven Gifts:

http://www.ewtn.com/devotionals/pentecost/seven.htm

2. Book: “Be a Man”, by Father Larry Richards, Chapter 4 “Be a Man Who Lives in the Holy Spirit”

Accountability

1. Prepare yourself to receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, make a sincere and complete confession.

2. Pray to the Holy Spirit to receive his Seven Gifts.

3. Reflect on the Seven Gifts and ask God to help you use them in your life.

4. Take a different Gift each of the next seven days; focus on that Gift for that day and ask God for that Gift.

Author(s)

Michael Copfer

Included Resources:

  1. Presenting group may wish to incorporate the following prayer by St. Augustine into their pray:

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.

Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.

Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy.

Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.

Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy.

Amen

  1. Gifts of the Holy Spirit enable us to live a holy Christian life. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are:

1. Wisdom:

· That I may despise the perishable things of this world and aspire only after the things that are eternal (Desire for the things of God, and to direct our whole life and all our actions to His honor and glory)

· It is the gift of Wisdom that strengthens our faith, fortifies hope, perfects charity, and promotes the practice of virtue in the highest degree

· Wisdom is the most perfect of the gifts; it enables you to know how to use all of His gifts in their proper proportions

2. Understanding (Light of Divine Truth):

· Enable us to know more clearly the mysteries of faith (truths of our holy religion); it is by Understanding that we learn to appreciate and relish them

· It enables us to penetrate the inner meaning of revealed truths and through them to be quickened to newness of life.

· Our faith ceases to be sterile and inactive, but inspires a mode of life that bears eloquent testimony to the faith that is in us; we begin to “walk worthy of God in all things pleasing, and increasing in the knowledge of God

3. Counsel (Right Judgement, Supernatural Common Sense):

· That I may ever choose the surest way of pleasing God and gaining heaven

· Endows the soul with supernatural prudence, enabling it to judge promptly and rightly what must done, especially in difficult circumstances; warning us of the deceits of the devil, and of the dangers to salvation

· Counsel applies the principles furnished by Knowledge and Understanding to the innumerable concrete cases that confront us in the course of our daily duty as parents, teachers, public servants, and Christian citizens. Counsel is supernatural common sense, a priceless treasure in the quest of salvation

· Enables you to know how to listen and to act upon His promptings and His inspiration

4. Fortitude (Courage):

· Strengthens us to do the will of God in all things; that we may bear our cross with Him and that we may overcome with courage all the obstacles that oppose our salvation

· Fortitude imparts to the will an impulse and energy which move it to under-take without hesitancy the most arduous tasks, to face dangers, to trample under foot human respect, and to endure without complaint the slow martyrdom of even lifelong tribulation

· Gives you strength to do what you must do

5. Knowledge:

· That I may know God and know myself and grow perfect in the science of the Saints

· Enables the soul to evaluate created things at their true worth–in their relation to God (It unmasks the pretense of creatures, reveals their emptiness, and points out their only true purpose as instruments in the service of God)

· It shows us the loving care of God even in adversity, and directs us to glorify Him in every circumstance of life (Guided by its light, we put first things first, and prize the friendship of God beyond all else)

· Enable us to discover the will of God in all things

· Enables you to see as God sees, to the extent that He wants you to see at a particular moment

6. Piety (Reverence):

· That I may find the service of God sweet and amiable (allows us to finds the practice of his religion, not a burdensome duty, but a delightful service – Where there is love, there is no labor)

· He who is filled with the gift of Piety Love God as a Father, and obey Him because we love Him

· Enables you to love being in the presence of God

· It inspires us to love and respect for His sake persons and things consecrated to Him, as well as those who are vested with His authority, His Blessed Mother and the Saints, the Church and its visible Head, our parents and superiors, our country and its rulers

7. Fear of the Lord (Wonder and Awe):

· That I may be filled with a loving reverence towards God and may dread in any way to displease Him

· Sovereign respect for God, and makes us dread nothing so much as to offend Him by sin

· It is a fear that arises, not from the thought of hell, but from sentiments of reverence and filial submission to our heavenly Father

· Enables you to love the Lord so much you fear not doing His will

  1. The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit By Frank X. Blisard http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2006/0612uan.asp

It is difficult to name another Catholic doctrine of as hallowed antiquity as the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit that is subject to such benign neglect. Like most Catholics born around 1950, I learned their names by rote: “wis-dom, un-derstanding, coun-sel, fort-itude, know-ledge, pie-ety, and fear of the Lord!” Sadly, though, it was all my classmates and I ever learned, at least formally, about these mysterious powers that were to descend upon us at our confirmation. Once Confirmation Day had come and gone, we were chagrined to find that we had not become the all-wise, all-knowing, unconquerable milites Christi (soldiers of Christ) that our pre-Vatican II catechesis had promised.

The Problem

Ironically, post-Vatican II catechesis has proven even less capable of instilling in young Catholics a lively sense of what the seven gifts are all about. At least the previous approach had the advantage of conjuring up the lurid prospect of a martyr’s bloody death at the hands of godless atheists. But, alas, such militant pedagogy went out the window in the aftermath of the Council. But a stream of reports in recent decades on declining interest in the faith among new confirmandi suggests that the changes are not having their desired effect. Not that there were no bugs in the pre-Vatican II catechetical machine—there were plenty—but such superficial tinkering did not even begin to address them.
A recent article in Theological Studies by Rev. Charles E. Bouchard, O.P., president of the Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, Missouri (“Recovering the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Moral Theology,” Sept. 2002), identifies some specific weaknesses in traditional Catholic catechesis on the seven gifts:

· Neglect of the close connection between the seven gifts and the cardinal and theological virtues (faith, hope, charity/love, prudence, justice, fortitude/courage, and temperance), which St. Thomas Aquinas himself had emphasized in his treatment of the subject

· A tendency to relegate the seven gifts to the esoteric realm of ascetical/mystical spirituality rather than the practical, down-to-earth realm of moral theology, which Aquinas had indicated was their proper sphere

· A form of spiritual elitism whereby the fuller study of the theology of the gifts was reserved to priests and religious, who alone, it was presumed—unlike the unlettered masses—had the requisite learning and spirituality to appreciate and assimilate it

· Neglect of the scriptural basis of the theology of the gifts, particularly Isaiah 11, where the gifts were originally identified and applied prophetically to Christ

The 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church had already addressed some of these issues (such as the importance of the virtues and the relationship between the gifts and “the moral life”) but avoided defining the individual gifts or even treating them in any detail—a mere six paragraphs (1285–1287, 1830–1831, and 1845), as compared with forty on the virtues (1803–1829, 1832–1844). Perhaps that is why the catechetical textbooks that have appeared in the wake of the new Catechism present such a confusing array of definitions of the gifts. These definitions tend to be imprecise rehashings of the traditional Thomistic definitions or totally ad hoc definitions drawn from the author’s personal experience or imagination. In light of these developments, it is helpful to review the Church’s traditional explanation of the seven gifts.

The Traditional Explanation

The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are, according to Catholic Tradition, heroic character traits that Jesus Christ alone possesses in their plenitude but that he freely shares with the members of his mystical body (i.e., his Church). These traits are infused into every Christian as a permanent endowment at his baptism, nurtured by the practice of the seven virtues, and sealed in the sacrament of confirmation. They are also known as the sanctifying gifts of the Spirit, because they serve the purpose of rendering their recipients docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in their lives, helping them to grow in holiness and making them fit for heaven.
The nature of the seven gifts has been debated by theologians since the mid-second century, but the standard interpretation has been the one that St. Thomas Aquinas worked out in the thirteenth century in his Summa Theologiae:

· Wisdom is both the knowledge of and judgment about “divine things” and the ability to judge and direct human affairs according to divine truth (I/I.1.6; I/II.69.3; II/II.8.6; II/II.45.1–5).

· Understanding is penetrating insight into the very heart of things, especially those higher truths that are necessary for our eternal salvation—in effect, the ability to “see” God (I/I.12.5; I/II.69.2; II/II.8.1–3).

· Counsel allows a man to be directed by God in matters necessary for his salvation (II/II.52.1).

· Fortitude denotes a firmness of mind in doing good and in avoiding evil, particularly when it is difficult or dangerous to do so, and the confidence to overcome all obstacles, even deadly ones, by virtue of the assurance of everlasting life (I/II.61.3; II/II.123.2; II/II.139.1).

· Knowledge is the ability to judge correctly about matters of faith and right action, so as to never wander from the straight path of justice (II/II.9.3).

· Piety is, principally, revering God with filial affection, paying worship and duty to God, paying due duty to all men on account of their relationship to God, and honoring the saints and not contradicting Scripture. The Latin word pietas denotes the reverence that we give to our father and to our country; since God is the Father of all, the worship of God is also called piety (I/II.68.4; II/II.121.1).

· Fear of God is, in this context, “filial” or chaste fear whereby we revere God and avoid separating ourselves from him—as opposed to “servile” fear, whereby we fear punishment (I/II.67.4; II/II.19.9).

These gifts, according to Aquinas, are “habits,” “instincts,” or “dispositions” provided by God as supernatural helps to man in the process of his “perfection.” They enable man to transcend the limitations of human reason and human nature and participate in the very life of God, as Christ promised (John 14:23). Aquinas insisted that they are necessary for man’s salvation, which he cannot achieve on his own. They serve to “perfect” the four cardinal or moral virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance) and the three theological virtues (faith, hope, and charity). The virtue of charity is the key that unlocks the potential power of the seven gifts, which can (and will) lie dormant in the soul after baptism unless so acted upon.
Because “grace builds upon nature” (ST I/I.2.3), the seven gifts work synergistically with the seven virtues and also with the twelve fruits of the Spirit and the eight beatitudes. The emergence of the gifts is fostered by the practice of the virtues, which in turn are perfected by the exercise of the gifts. The proper exercise of the gifts, in turn, produce the fruits of the Spirit in the life of the Christian: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, modesty, self-control, and chastity (Gal. 5:22–23). The goal of this cooperation among virtues, gifts, and fruits is the attainment of the eight-fold state of beatitude described by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:3–10).

The Spiritual Arsenal

Rather than perpetuating either a strictly Thomistic approach or an approach based on contemporary, culturally conditioned definitions, I propose a third way of understanding the seven gifts, one that goes back the biblical source material.
The first—and only—place in the entire Bible where these seven special qualities are listed together is Isaiah 11:1–3, in a famous Messianic prophecy.

Virtually every commentator on the seven gifts for the past two millennia has identified this passage as the source of the teaching, yet none have noted how integral these seven concepts were to the ancient Israelite “Wisdom” tradition, which is reflected in such Old Testament books as Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Psalms, Ecclesiasticus, and the Wisdom of Solomon, as well as certain strands of the prophetic books, including Isaiah. This material focuses on how to navigate the ethical demands of daily life (economics, love and marriage, rearing children, interpersonal relationships, the use and abuse of power) rather than the historical, prophetic, or mythical/metaphysical themes usually associated with the Old Testament. It does not contradict these other.aspects of revelation but complements them by providing a glimpse into how Israel’s covenant with Yahweh is lived out in all its nitty-gritty detail.
It is from this world of practical, down-to-earth, everyday concerns rather than the realm of ascetical or mystical experience that the seven gifts emerged, and the context of Isaiah 11 reinforces this frame of reference. The balance of Isaiah describes in loving detail the aggressiveness with which the “shoot of Jesse” will establish his “peaceable kingdom” upon the earth:

He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Is. 11:3–4, 9)

Establishing this kingdom entails thought, planning, work, struggle, courage, endurance, perseverance, humility—that is, getting one’s hands dirty. This earthbound perspective is a profitable one from which to view the role the seven gifts play in the life of mature (or maturing) Christians.
There is a strain within Catholicism, as within Christianity in general, that focuses on the afterlife to the exclusion—and detriment—of this world, as if detachment from temporal things were alone a guarantee of eternal life. One of the correctives to this kind of thinking issued by Vatican II was the recovery of the biblical emphasis on the kingdom of God as a concrete reality that not only transcends the created order but also transforms it (Dei Verbum 17; Lumen Gentium 5; Gaudium et Spes 39).
The seven gifts are indispensable resources in the struggle to establish the kingdom and are, in a sense, a byproduct of actively engaging in spiritual warfare. If a person does not bother to equip himself properly for battle, he should not be surprised to find himself defenseless when the battle is brought to his doorstep. If my classmates and I never “acquired” the “mysterious powers” we anticipated, perhaps it is because we never took up arms in the struggle to advance the kingdom of God!
The seven gifts are an endowment to which every baptized Christian can lay claim from his earliest childhood. They are our patrimony. These gifts, given in the sacraments for us to develop through experience, are indispensable to the successful conduct of the Christian way of life. They do not appear spontaneously and out of nowhere but emerge gradually as the fruit of virtuous living. Nor are they withdrawn by the Spirit once they are no longer needed, for they are perpetually needed as long as we are fighting the good fight.
The seven gifts are designed to be used in the world for the purpose of transforming that world for Christ. Isaiah 11 vividly portrays what these gifts are to be used for: to do what one is called to do in one’s own time and place to advance the kingdom of God. The specific, personal details of that call do not come into focus until one has realized his very limited, ungodlike place in the scheme of things (fear of the Lord), accepted one’s role as a member of God’s family (piety), and acquired the habit of following the Father’s specific directions for living a godly life (knowledge). This familiarity with God breeds the strength and courage needed to confront the evil that one inevitably encounters in one’s life (fortitude) and the cunning to nimbly shift one’s strategies to match—even anticipate—the many machinations of the Enemy (counsel). The more one engages in such “spiritual warfare,” the more one perceives how such skirmishes fit into the big picture that is God’s master plan for establishing his reign in this fallen world (understanding) and the more confident, skillful, and successful one becomes in the conduct of his particular vocation (wisdom).

Soldiers of Christ

These remarks are aimed primarily at adult cradle Catholics who, like me, were inadequately catechized (at least with respect to the seven gifts). Because of the ongoing controversy in the Church at large over the proper age for reception of the sacrament of confirmation, the malaise of inadequate catechesis is likely to continue afflicting the faithful. The lack of attention to the synergistic relationship between the virtues and the gifts seems to be the main culprit in the failure to develop the gifts among the confirmandi. Catechesis that is aimed only at the acquisition of knowledge or merely at promoting “random acts of kindness” without a solidly evangelical organizing principle simply will not cut it with this (or any other) generation of young people. Centering prayer, journaling, guided meditation, or any of the host of other pseudo-pedagogical tricks popular in many current catechetical programs cannot compete with the seductions of the culture of death.
The path to a mature appropriation of the spiritual arsenal represented by the seven gifts needs to be trod as early as possible, and the seven virtues can serve today, as they have for most of the Church’s history, as excellent guides along that path. Perhaps it is time to resurrect the traditional image of the baptized as “soldiers of Christ,” a phrase that has been anathema for Catholic catechetical materials for decades. Despite the fact that the post-Vatican II zeitgeist has militated against the notion of “militancy” in all things religious, this stance has been shown to be misguided—by an honest assessment of what Sacred Scripture has to say about it and by world events in our own lifetime. The toppling of the Soviet Union, for example, would not have happened without the nonviolent militancy of John Paul II in the pursuit of a legitimate goal. The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are our spiritual weaponry for the spiritual warfare of everyday life.

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Our Lady of Guadalupe – The self-portrait and its message

September 7, 2011 under Syllabus 2011-2012

Summary

The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe hangs in our meeting room, but what did it say to the indigenous people of Mexico 500 years ago to convert 9 million to the catholic faith and what does it say to us today as it is still the most visited Marian Shrine in the world?

Objective

The Objective is become familiar with the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

· The apparition events involving Juan Diego

· The symbols of the Image

· The message to us today

Bible Readings

1. Revelation 12: 1-2

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.

2. John 19:26-27

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

3. Luke 1:46-48

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.

Catechism Readings

1. Paragraph 963

Since the Virgin Mary’s role in the mystery of Christ and the Spirit has been treated, it is fitting now to consider her place in the mystery of the Church. “The Virgin Mary . . . is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and of the redeemer. . . . She is ‘clearly the mother of the members of Christ’ . . . since she has by her charity joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church, who are members of its head.” “Mary, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church.”

2. Paragraph 2679

Mary is the perfect Orans (pray-er), a figure of the Church. When we pray to her, we are adhering with her to the plan of the Father, who sends his Son to save all men. Like the beloved disciple we welcome Jesus’ mother into our homes, for she has become the mother of all the living. We can pray with and to her. The prayer of the Church is sustained by the prayer of Mary and united with it in hope.

Small Group Questions

1. Do you consider Mary to be your mother?

2. What did the image say to you before today and what does it say to you now?

3. Have you ever made a pilgrimage to the site of a Marian apparition? If yes, what was the experience like?

4. Have you ever prayed for the intersection of the Virgin Mary?

5. What do you do in your life to honor the Virgin Mary?

Recommended Resources

1. Book: “Our Lady of Guadalupe Mother of the Civilization of Love”, by Carl Anderson & MSGR. Eduardo Chavez

2. Recording of Catholic Answers Live show with Cardinal Raymond Burke about Our Lady of Guadalupe, which first aired on 12/8/2010 and is available to listen to for free at: http://www.catholic.com/radio/event.php?calendar=1&category=&event=6516&date=2010-12-08

Accountability

1. Reflect on the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, how can she help you grow closer to her son?

2. Take some time this weekend to discuss Our Lady of Guadalupe with you wife and kids.

Author(s)

Michael Copfer

Included Resources:

The following notes taken from the book: “Our Lady of Guadalupe Mother of the Civilization of Love”, by Carl Anderson & MSGR. Eduardo Chavez

HISTORY

· 1519-21: Hernan Cortes lands in Mexico and conquers the Aztec Empire

· Aztecs used human sacrifice to sustain the Aztec gods (sun & moon)and maintain cosmic harmony

· After the Spanish conquest of Mexico, Christian missionaries came to the New World

· 1529: Evangelization efforts to the indigenous people were failing both due to the corruption and mistreatment from some of the Spaniards toward the indigenous people and the friar missionaries’ inability to evangelize due to ignorance of the Indian language and culture. Friar Sahagun likened it to a doctor trying to cure a patient without knowing the illness. Friar Zumarrage wrote in a letter to Charles V, the king of Spain, “If God does not provide the remedy from His Hand, the land is about to be completely lost.”

· 1531: a series of natural events including earthquakes, Halley’s comet and a solar eclipse lead the Indians to believe that the world is about to end

· After the Apparitions and Image: A missionary wrote, “The Indians, submerged in a profound darkness, still loved and serves false little gods, clay figurines and images of our enemy the devil, in spite of having heard about the faith. But when they heard that the Holy Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ had appeared, and since they saw and admired her most perfect Image, which has no human art, their eyes were opened as if suddenly day had dawned for them.”

JUAN DIEGO

· Was a native of the area of Mexico City at the height of the Aztec Empire, his Indian name was Cuauhtlatoatzin meaning “eagle that speaks”

· He was a middle-class commoner who owned property through inheritance

· 1524 Juan Diego at 50 yrs old was baptized along with his wife by a Franciscan missionary, making them among the early converts to the Christian Faith

· Juan Diego’s wife died five years after they were baptized, leaving Juan Diego with just his uncle, Juan Bernardino also a convert to Christianity

· Every Saturday and Sunday Juan Diego awoke at dawn and walked nine miles to attend Mass and catechesis (instruction in the faith), his route took him by Tepeyac hill

FIRST APPARITION

· Saturday December 9, 1531, Juan Diego was on his way to catechesis and going by Tepeyac hill when he heard beautiful music coming from the top of the hill

· Then the music stopped and he heard a woman’s voice calling his name

· Upon reaching the top of the hill, he found a beautiful woman wearing clothes that “Shone like the sun”

· She said to him, “I am the ever-perfect holy Mary, who has the honor to be the mother of the true God by whom we all live, the Creator of people, the Lord of the near and far, the Lord of heaven and earth.” I want very much that they build my sacred little house here, in which I will show Him, I will exalt Him upon making Him manifest, I will give Him to all people in all my personal love, Him that is my compassionate gaze, Him that is my help, Him that is my salvation. Because truly I am your compassionate Mother, yours and that of all the people that live together in this land, and also of all the other various lineages of men, those who love me, those who cry to me, those who seek me, those who trust in me.”

· She asked him to give this message Friar Juan de Zumarrage, the bishop who was head of the Church in Mexico City

· Importance of this message:

o Makes clear the Virgin Mary’s universal role as mother and her desire to bring all people closer to God through her loving intercession

o The request of a church to be built is significant because to the indigenous people the temple was at the center of society and the request for a new temple marked the beginning of a new civilization

· Juan Diego went right away to bishop’s house. But the bishop was skeptical of an apparition to a recently converted Indian and told him that he would listen to his story at another time

SECOND APPARITION

· After being dismissed by the bishop, Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac hill and requested that the Virgin should give the mission to someone more important than himself

· He said, “So I beg you…to have one of the nobles who are held in esteem, one who is known, respected, honored, have him carry on, take your venerable breath, your venerable word, so that he will be believed. Because I am really just a man from the country, I am the porter’s rope, I am a back-frame, just a tail, a wing; I myself need to be led, carried on someone’s back…My Little Girl, my Littlest Daughter, my Lady, my Girl, please excuse me: I will afflict your face, your heart: I will fall into your anger, into your displeasure, my Lady Mistress.”

· The Virgin responded, “Listen, my youngest son, know for sure that I have no lack of servants messengers to whom I can give the task of carrying my breath, my word, so that they carry out my will. But it is necessary that you, personally, go and plead, that by your intercession my wish, my will, become a reality. And I beg you, my youngest son, and I strictly order you to go again tomorrow to see the bishop. And in my name, make him know, make him hear my wish, my will, so that he will bring into being, build my sacred house that I ask of him. And carefully tell him again how I, personally, the ever Virgin Holy Mary, I, who am the Mother of God, sent you as my messenger.”

· The next day, Juan Diego visited the bishop who questioned Juan Diego and then requested evidence that would confirm the truth of the story

THIRD APPARITION

· Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac hill and told the Virgin of the bishop’s request for a sign

· She told him to return the next day to receive the sign

FOURTH APPARITION

· The next day, Juan Diego’s uncle , Juan Bernardino, was very ill and instead of going to Tepeyac hill, Juan Diego went to get a doctor for his uncle

· On December 12, 1531, Juan Bernardino asked Juan Diego to bring him a priest for his confession and to prepare him for death

· Juan Diego put on his tilma (a cloak-like garment) as it was cold and went to get a priest, but remembering his promise to the Virgin, he avoided his usual path as he did not want to be delayed in getting the priest for his uncle

· However, the Virgin came down from the hill and said to Juan Diego, “My youngest son, what’s going on? Where are you going? Where are you headed?

· Juan Diego told her that his uncle was dying and that he needed to take care of him. He said, “Afterwards I will return here again to go carry your venerable breath, your venerable word, Lady, my little girl. Forgive me, be patient with me a little longer, because I am not deceiving you with this…tomorrow without fail I will come in all haste.”

· The Virgin responded, “Listen, put it into your heart, my youngest son, that what frightened you, what afflicted you, is nothing; do not let it disturb your face, your heart; do not fear this sickness nor any other sickness, nor any sharp and hurtful thing. Am I not here, I who have the honor to be your Mother? Are you not in my shadow and under my protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need something more?

· She tells him that his uncle will recover from his illness

· Juan Diego trusted the Virgin completely and again asked for a sign to take to the bishop as proof

· She instructed him to go to the top of Tepeyac hill and cut flowers and bring them back to her to arrange in his tilma

· Juan Diego was amazed to find flowers of the sweetest scent during the winter on this rocky hill that typically only grew thistles and cacti

· While arranging the flowers in his tilma the Virgin said, “My youngest son, these different kinds of flowers are the proof, the sign that you will take to the bishop. You will tell him for me that in them he is to see my wish and that therefore he is to carry out my wish, my will; and you, you who are my messenger, in you I place my absolute trust.”

· Juan Diego then goes to the bishop’s house with the sign (the flowers) in his tilma. Upon finally getting to see the bishop, Juan Diego kneels before him and unfolds his tilma letting the flowers fall to the floor, which reveal the image of the Virgin Mary upon the tilma’s rough surface

· Those present knelt down overwhelmed with emotion. The bishop also knelt in tears, praying for the Virgin’s forgiveness for not having done her request

· The following day Juan Diego took the bishop to see where the chapel was to be built, construction began immediately

TILMA

· In the Indian culture the tilma was a sign of social status. Peasant’s had plan tilmas, while nobles had colorful tilmas

· The tilma also represented: protection, nourishment, matrimony and consecration

· By placing her image on Juan Diego’s tilma, the Virgin gave a new dignity to the common person and especially to the Indians

APPARITION TO JUAN BERNARDINO (JUAN DIEGO’S UNCLE)

· After fulfilling his duty Juan Diego returned to his uncle, to find him completely healed

· As Juan Diego explained to his uncle where he had been, his uncle told him that he already knew because the Virgin came to him, healed him and told him everything that his nephew was doing for her

· She also told the uncle her name: “the Perfect Virgin Holy Mary of Guadalupe

· By disclosing her full name to the uncle it gives a second witness to the apparition and it show his role in the family and relationship as a community elder

· The name “Guadalupe” chosen by her reflects her mission as the one that carries or brings the living water, Jesus Christ. Guadalupe was a river that ran through Extremadura, Spain. It is of Arabic origin and means “river of black gravel”

THE IMAGE – A Mystery for Science

· Juan Diego’s tilma is made of agave fibers (cactus cloth), which are highly corruptible and should suffer from normal decomposition (typically would last only 30-40 years), but it is still intact today

· Miraculous preservation: for the first 116 years it was displayed with no type of covering; replica tilmas made of similar material have been placed in the same area as the original and have not held up to the environmental characteristics of the humidity and saltpeter found on Tepeyac hill, within a short period the replicas discolor and fall to pieces

· Nov. 14, 1921 a bomb was placed under the image and exploded, the result was that is ruined the alter, candelabra, and bronze crucifix atop the alter and shattered windows in neighboring homes within a one-kilometer radius but only inches away the tilma under a glass covering remained unharmed.

· In 1785 nitric acid used to clean the frame was spilled, enough to destroy the whole surface; however, only a dull mark is visible

· Both art specialists and chemists have studied the image on the tilma to determine how the image came to be on the tilma. The colors permeate the fabric all the way through and are visible in the back. The art experts determined, “It is humanly impossible that any artist could paint and work something so beautiful, clean and well-formed on a fabric which is as rough as is the tilma.” They could not even determine if it is tempera or oil paint because it appears to be both. Likewise, the chemists concluded, “Our limited intelligence cannot account for it.”

· In 1977, the tilma was examined using infrared photography and digital enhancement techniques. Unlike any painting, the tilma shows no sketching or any sign of outline drawn to permit an artist to produce a painting. Further, the very method used to create the image is still unknown. The image is inexplicable in its longevity and method of production.

THE IMAGE – SYMBOLS

· Belt much higher than the waist indicating she is pregnant. Not only is she pregnant, but she is pregnant with God himself as indicated by the Jasmine flower (four petals) on her belly, which is the Indian’s symbol for God and only appears in this one place on her tunic.

· The Virgin sounded by fog/clouds is a sign of something supernatural to the Indians

· The angel beneath her feet is a sign of renewal for the Indian civilization. As it is both bald but with the countenance of a child, therefore, evoking both wisdom and youthful. The wings are that of an eagle symbolic of the conveyor of the Aztecs’ sacrificial offerings. Thus the eagle-angle is transporting in his hands the new sacrifice, Christ present in the Virgin’s womb.

· The pattern of the stars on her mantle are the constellations that appeared above Mexico City on the morning of Dec. 12, 1531, the day the image appeared on the tilma.

· The rich blue-green color of the mantle was an imperial color for the Aztecs, typically only worn by the emperor.

· By eclipsing the sun and standing atop the moon, she shows that she has governance of both, which were gods that the Indians had been worshiping with human sacrifice. Also, the date of the image (Dec. 12, 1531) was the winter solstice, when the sun conquers the darkness and the days become longer.

· Even as her imperial-colored clothing and cosmic surroundings indicate that she is a heavenly queen, her posture indicates that there is someone greater than she, someone to whom she humbly prays. Not only her hands indicate that she is praying, and her eyes are downcast as a sign of respect but also her stance, which has one bent knee and her weight on the other foot, which to the Indians was a sign of a dance, their highest form of prayer.

· Her skin is neither white like the Spaniards nor dark like the Indians, but is mestizo, a combination of the two. She is therefore identifying herself with the people of the New World, as both a mix of European and Indian ancestry.

· The bare cross on the brooch is similar to that of the missionaries and not only identifies her son but also acknowledges the Indians’ sufferings, both due to plagues and mistreatment at the hands of some of the Spanish officials and settlers.

WHAT IT MEANS TODAY

Pope John Paul II (Ecclesia in America), “The appearance of Mary to native Juan Diego on the hill of Tepeyac in 1531 had a decisive effect on evangelization. Its influence greatly overflows the boundaries of Mexico, spreading to the whole continent…[which] has recognized in the mestizo face of the Virgin of Tepeyac, “in Blessed Mary of Guadalupe, an impressive example of a perfectly enculturated evangelization.” Therefore, JP II said that Our Lady of Guadalupe is venerated in the Western Hemisphere as “Queen of all America” and that the December 12th feast day be celebrated not only in Mexico but throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is more than an event; she is a person, “Patroness of all America and Star of the first and new evangelization”, her continuing witness to Christ continues to aid the men and women of the Western Hemisphere to a greater encounter with Christ.

WHAT HAVE THE POPES SAID CONCERNING Our Lady of Guadalupe

1576, Pope Gregory XIII extends indulgences and blessings to the chapel at Tepeyac

1667, Pope Clement IX institutes the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12

1754, Pope Benedict XIV declares our Lady of Guadalupe patroness of New Spain, saying, “God has not done anything like this for any other nation.”

1900, Pope Leo XII proclaims that the offices and Masses of Our Lady of Guadalupe are to be celebrated in perpetuity

1910, Pope Pius X declares Our Lady of Guadalupe patroness of Latin America

1935, Pope Pius XI names Our Lady of Guadalupe patroness of the Philippines

1946, Pope Pius XII declares Our Lady of Guadalupe Patroness of the Americas

1999, Pope John Paul II proclaimed Our Lady of Guadalupe as Patroness of the whole American continent

2002, July 31, Juan Diego is canonized by Pope John Paul II at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, becoming the first Mexican indigenous saint

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