make disciples

Go And Make Disciples

When we hear the words, “Go and make disciples,” it’s easy to think that Jesus is talking to someone else. After all, isn’t this what He told his Apostles? He wasn’t really talking to me, was He?

It’s easy to think that. But it’s wrong. Each of us, baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, is called to “go and make disciples.” This theme was chosen by the USCCB (United States’ Conference of Catholic Bishops) for the evangelization plan for the United States.

The  church, the people of God, has always been called to be an evangelizing church  sent by Jesus as he returned to the Father to: “Go and make disciples of  all nations…” There have been successes and failures in fulfilling this  commission of Jesus. The Second Vatican Council in our time gave a significant  thrust to this essential mission of the church.

What does it mean to evangelize? Are we meant to stand on a soapbox and preach? Should we sit our neighbors down and outline the Gospel for them? The US Bishops say,

Evangelization, then, has both an inward and an outward direction. Inwardly it calls for our continued receiving of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our ongoing conversion both individually and as Church. It nurtures us, makes us grow, and renews us in holiness as God’s people. Outwardly evangelization addresses those who have not heard the Gospel or who, having heard it, have stopped practicing their faith, and those who seek the fullness of faith. It calls us to work for full communion among all who confess Jesus but do not yet realize the unity for which Christ prayed. Pope John Paul Il, in his encyclical on missionary activity, summed up the three objectives of mission: to proclaim the Gospel to all people; to help bring about the reconversion of those who have received the Gospel but live it only nominally; and to deepen the Gospel in the lives of believers.

The first step, then, in evangelization is to make sure our own house (so to speak) is in order. We must seek holiness for ourselves, as we cannot give what we do not have. Then, we can reach out to others in faith. There are those who say, “Your life may be the only ‘Bible’ someone ever reads.” This means our actions, words and our contact with others should always be a demonstration of our life for Christ and for others. However, we cannot leave it simply at that. We are meant to proclaim Christ and Him crucified. We are meant to share the Good News: that Christ has lived, died and been risen for our sins, and that death no longer has a hold on us. The freedom of Christ is meant for all, not a chosen few.

As we continue to prepare for the Lenten season, let us be aware of the fact that Christ has called us to go and make disciples. He desires that all people know Him and the freedom from sin He offers. If we truly believe in this Good News, we cannot keep it to ourselves. With the US Bishops that,

We pray that our Catholic people will be set ablaze with a desire to live their faith fully and share it freely with others. May their eagerness to share the faith bring a transformation to our nation and, with missionary dedication, even to the whole world. We ask God to open the heart of every Catholic, to see the need for the Gospel in each life, in our nation and on our planet.

Together, let us go and make disciples, with joy!


The Baptism Of The Lord

Place yourself at the scene: You see a small crowd gathered around a large, wild-looking man with hair and beard gone bushy – almost savage looking. He – John the Baptist – wears only a tunic made of camel and preaches that the Messiah is near. This John is an almost ferocious–looking creature, but people followed and listened, hungry for not simply spiritual direction but for the sorely-needed Chosen One. They follow this man, this preacher, to the Jordan River.

One by one, John baptizes them with water. He cautions them though: There is one coming who will baptize in water and the Holy Spirit. That is what we all need, because in that baptism is grace.

And one day, as John is preaching and baptizing, Jesus come to the Jordan. John halts: That is Him! That is the Lamb of God! He is the one who will take away our sins!

What does Jesus do? He doesn’t step up on higher ground and begin preaching. He doesn’t tell everyone that what John has said is right on target. No, he wades into the water, and is baptized.

This striking scene, that we celebrate today, gives us much to ponder. As Catholics, we too are baptized. And we are baptized in water and the Holy Spirit. This baptism (along with confirmation and Holy Orders) leaves an “indelible seal” upon us. That mark or seal actually changes us, and it’s permanent. We can’t undo it, even if we stop attending Mass, even if we declare ourselves a witch or warlock, even if … we are marked with the sign of Christ for all eternity. For children, it is the parents’ responsibility to nurture the faith of their child, to care for the child’s soul. As the child gets older, more and more of the responsibility for one’s relationship with God shifts to the individual, until that person reaches maturity. And each of us, when we dies, will need to account to God as to how and why we chose what we did for the care (or lack thereof) for our soul.

Jesus’ baptism was NOT a superhero movie scene. He did not enter the Jordan an “ordinary” man and emerge as a shining god or an all-powerful king ready to smash the Roman empire. No, it was a picture-perfect example of what we are to do. We need to seek the Lamb of God through trusted sources. We need to be humble enough to admit that we need help, that we need the grace God makes available to us. We need to strip off all the worldly things that hold us back from our beloved Father. Most importantly, we need to continuously seek ways to live out our baptismal promises: to reject Satan, to believe in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to live our faith as the Church teaches.

There are not “magicicians” or superpower heroes among the faithful. Instead, there are those who – every day – decide to live out their faith. As Father Bede Jarrett said, “Baptism doe not set us right, but, by the high privilege is affords, it gives us the power to set ourselves right.” And with the grace of baptism, so we must set ourselves right, every day.

7 day christmas

On the Seventh Day of Christmas

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me, seven swans a-swimming

The seven swans are meant to remind us of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit

For many of us, today is a day of revelry: we are going to ring in the New Year! Maybe you’re headed to a big bash. Perhaps you prefer a quiet celebration with just a few friends. Or maybe you’re staying home, working on New Year’s resolutions.

As we look forward to bringing in the New Year, it is good to reflect on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. As Catholics, we receive theses gifts in Baptism and more fully in Confirmation. Like any gift, however, we have to open these and use them. Otherwise, they become like that ugly sweater your Aunt Ethel made you that you hide in the back of the closet or that “thing” that you still haven’t figured out (A vase? An umbrella stand? A planter?) from your mother-in-law that you’re pretty sure she re-gifted.

Wisdom. Understanding. Knowledge. Counsel. Fortitude. Piety. Fear of the Lord. Those are some heavy-duty gifts. If we use them daily, they not only serve us well by making us holier, they stand as a sign of God’s love to all those around us. 

In 2014, Pope Francis began a catechesis on the Gifts of the Spirit. In his opening remarks, he said:

You know that the Holy Spirit constitutes the soul, the life blood of the Church and of every individual Christian: He is the Love of God who makes of our hearts his dwelling place and enters into communion with us. The Holy Spirit abides with us always, he is always within us, in our hearts.

The Spirit himself is “the gift of God” par excellence (cf. Jn 4:10), he is a gift of God, and he in turn communicates various spiritual gifts to those who receive him. The Church identifies seven, a number which symbolically speaks of fullness, completeness; they are those we learn about when we prepare for the Sacrament of Confirmation and which we invoke in the ancient prayer called the ‘Sequence of the Holy Spirit.’

“The Love of God who makes of our hearts his dwelling place.” That is a stunning statement. God, who is Love, pours Himself into our hearts. In learning, understanding and using these gifts, we come to know God and ourselves more intimately. That intimate knowledge will lead us to our salvation.

As we begin the New Year, let take time to learn more about these gifts and to pray fervently for a deeper understanding of how God wishes us to use them.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

[From the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: “The liturgical season of Christmas begins with the vigil Masses on Christmas Eve and concludes on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. During this season, we celebrate the birth of Christ into our world and into our hearts, and reflect on the gift of salvation that is born with him…including the fact that he was born to die for us.” There are, however, the traditional “12 Days of Christmas,” captured in the song of the same title. Some claim the song was meant as catechism of a sort, written and sung for nearly 300 years of British persecution of Catholics. We will be using both the song and the Church’s liturgical calendar to celebrate the Christmas season. We hope you enjoy.]

catholic home

5 Ways To Keep A Catholic Home

When you’re a guest in someone’s home, you can learn a lot about your hosts’ family just by looking around. Lots of family pictures tell you that they value family. A room with a piano and other musical instruments tells you they are musicians.

If someone walked into your home, would they know how much your faith means to you?

Don’t think you need to turn your home into a shrine, with statues and candles at every turn. However, you can use a few creative methods to make your space more of the domestic church our homes are meant to be as Catholics. Here are just some ideas:

  1. Celebrate baptism days. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy; simply enjoy a good meal with a nice dessert. Of course, use this opportunity to pull out your child’s baptismal candle and the white garment given to them on the day of their baptism. Talk about what these mean, and how your child can live out his/her baptismal promises. If your child’s godparents live close enough, invite them to the celebration.
  2. Make sure the liturgical year is celebrated at home. Even if you’re not crafty or an artist, you can still enjoy making memories and reinforcing the faith with your kids by making Lenten paper chains, lighting Advent candles, and setting up a Nativity scene. Even the youngest members of the family can join in  fun, simple ways to bring your Catholic faith home. It also reinforces that our faith is not just for church on Sunday, but the way we live every day.
  3. Buy a holy water font and fill it with holy water. Many people are a bit taken back by this, but indeed, it is perfectly acceptable for us to have holy water fonts in our home. You can put one by the entrance you and your family use the most, blessing yourselves as you come and go. Or consider putting one in every family member’s bedroom. It re-connects us with our baptism and is another wonderful way to reinforce the domestic church. (By the way, if you’re not sure where/how to get holy water, ask your pastor. Most churches either have a dispenser in the church or allow  you to get water from the baptismal font.)
  4. Use Catholic art. Perhaps a small statue or a picture of your child’s patron saint in his/her bedroom would be a good place to begin. You can also create a family altar. It doesn’t require a lot of money, but it’s a terrific reminder that we have “friends in high places” who are eager and willing to pray for us.
  5. Make sure you have at least one crucifix prominently displayed in your home. This isn’t simply a way to display your faith, but a way to remind us constantly of Christ’s greatest gift to us. In addition, we know every time we look at the crucifix that we are called to suffer in communion with Him, sacrificing in a small way every moment of every day in imitations of Christ’s great sacrifice.

Oh, and one more thing: go to Mass! Even if you can only go on Sundays, the Mass is the single most important prayer of the Church and the family. Yes, sometimes it’s hard to get there: kids are wiggly or grouchy, we want to sleep late, we are on the road for a long weekend. However, there is not any excuse (other than great sickness or caring for the someone who is ill) that should keep us from Mass. A healthy family spiritual life always begins and ends with the Mass.

As we look to the end of this Year of Mercy, it is so important that we remember our homes should be places of comfort, mercy and forgiveness.

In our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our schools, in our workplaces – we can be bearers of God’s mercy. Furthermore, in this jubilee year, we are challenged to break out of our routine lives and go the extra mile by actively seeking out those who are in need of the grace and peace of Jesus’ merciful touch. The notion of “jubilee” is an invitation to be “extravagant” ambassadors of mercy: merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful – without boundaries, without constraints, with our hearts full of solidarity for all humanity.

So, then, as we become agents and witnesses to mercy, we will be able, as a family of faith, to recreate our local parishes into “oases of mercy” for the life of the world around us. In a world too often experienced as a barren desert, bereft of true mercy and compassion, we will provide an oasis of healing and tenderness, because we ourselves have been touched and changed by mercy.

With just a few simple and on-going changes to our homes, we can ensure that we are truly living our faith whether we are at home, at church, or out in the world. “You are the light of the world,” Christ teaches us, “… your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”


The Trinity: Three Persons, One Substance

Yesterday was the celebration of the Holy Trinity. What an immense blessing it is for Catholics who are able to recognized our bodies as a “home” for the Trinity when we sign ourselves: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Our baptism has indelibly marked our souls in the name of the Triune God.

Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote and spoke extensively regarding the Trinity. In 2009, he said this:

Today we contemplate the Most Holy Trinity as Jesus introduced us to it. He revealed to us that God is love “not in the oneness of a single Person, but in the Trinity of one substance.” He is the Creator and merciful Father; he is the Only-Begotten Son, eternal Wisdom incarnate, who died and rose for us; he is the Holy Spirit who moves all things, cosmos and history, toward their final, full recapitulation. Three Persons who are one God because the Father is love, the Son is love, the Spirit is love. God is wholly and only love, the purest, infinite and eternal love. He does not live in splendid solitude but rather is an inexhaustible source of life that is ceaselessly given and communicated. To a certain extent we can perceive this by observing both the macro-universe: our earth, the planets, the stars, the galaxies; and the micro-universe: cells, atoms, elementary particles. The “name” of the Blessed Trinity is, in a certain sense, imprinted upon all things because all that exists, down to the last particle, is in relation; in this way we catch a glimpse of God as relationship and ultimately, Creator Love. [emphasis added.]

It is amazing to contemplate the endless and “inexhaustible” life that is the Trinity, yet even more astounding that this life dwells in us! Indeed, the only way for this life to be “deadened” in us is through mortal sin. Not only that, but as Pope Benedict pointed out, the entire world is imprinted with this life. Imagine how radically different our world would be if each and every person recognized this and lived accordingly. Imagine how different your world would be if you recognized this and lived accordingly!

Pope Benedict also stated that we have clear evidence of the Trinity:

The strongest proof that we are made in the image of the Trinity is this: love alone makes us happy because we live in a relationship, and we live to love and to be loved. Borrowing an analogy from biology, we could say that imprinted upon his “genome”, the human being bears a profound mark of the Trinity, of God as Love.

One could say (although only as analogy) that our baptism “tattoos” the Trinity onto our souls. We are for all eternity marked, claimed for God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And this imprinting is pure love. Again, what a gift and blessing this is. God the Almighty – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – has claimed us and marked us for love for life, for eternity.

marks of the church

4 Marks Of The Catholic Church: What Makes Us Who We Are

Do you know the 4 marks of the Catholic Church? You probably do, although perhaps you’ve never heard them called that. We state the 4 marks every time we pray the Nicene Creed: we are one, holy, catholic and apostolic. Let’s look at each of these terms.

First, we are one church. Author Kevin Whitehead says that the meaning of one church was vital to the new church formed by the Apostles:

The Church of the apostles was definitely one: “There is one body and one spirit,” Paul wrote, “just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all” (Eph. 4:4-5). Paul linked this primitive unity to the Church’s common Eucharistic bread: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of one bread” (1 Cor. 10:17). Jesus had promised at the outset that “there would be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16).

We remain so today. Under the guidance of the bishops and the pope, our faith is unified. For instance, you can attend a Mass in Ireland, in South Africa, in Alaska, in Peoria and the Mass remains the same. Even if you do not speak the local language, you understand what is happening. Most important, Christ is present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity at every Mass.

The next mark of the Church is holy. Does this mean that each and every Catholic is holy? Unfortunately no. The Church is a holy institution made up of sinners. The Church is holy because Christ is holy. Fr. William Saunders:

Christ sanctifies the Church, and in turn, through Him and with Him, the Church is His agent of sanctification. Through the ministry of the Church and the power of the Holy Spirit, our Lord pours forth abundant graces, especially through the sacraments. Therefore, through its teaching, prayer and worship, and good works, the Church is a visible sign of holiness.

Nevertheless, we must not forget that each of us as a member of the Church has been called to holiness. Through baptism, we have been freed from original sin, filled with sanctifying grace, plunged into the mystery of our Lord’s passion, death, and resurrection, and incorporated into the Church, “the holy people of God.” By God’s grace, we strive for holiness.

For lay people, we have a responsibility to become holy. Holiness is not something meant for “those” people: priests, nuns, that little old lady who goes to Mass every day and sacrifices a great deal to support the Church financially. No, it is our responsibility to seek holiness in whatever place we find ourselves. If you are a nurse, God wants you to be a holy nurse. If you are a farmer, God is calling you to be a holy farmer. If you run a cash register at a restaurant, God wants you to be holy in that job. And of course, we are all called to be holy in the context of our families.

The word catholic in the Creed often throws people off. Some think that it’s the name of our church. We are known as Catholics; we belong to the Catholic Church. But in the Creed, this word means something a bit deeper. Catholic here means universal. Think about it: Christ called his Apostles and disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations.” And they did. Our Church still does. Our Church serves the needs of people around the world. This means that we don’t simply belong to St. Martin de Porres Church down the street; we belong to a universal church that covers the globe. Anywhere there is a Catholic Church, we are home.

Finally, the mark apostolic. Just as one might imagine, this has to do with the Apostles. Christ Himself appointed the leaders of the early Church: his Apostles. Yes, He was clearly aware of their faults, their doubts, their sins. Yet,  Christ still told them they were to lead the Church.

The apostles were the first bishops, and, since the first century, there has been an unbroken line of Catholic bishops faithfully handing on what the apostles taught the first Christians in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition (2 Timothy 2:2). These beliefs include the bodily Resurrection of Jesus, the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, the sacrificial nature of the Mass, the forgiveness of sins through a priest, baptismal regeneration, the existence of purgatory, Mary’s special role, and much more – even the doctrine of apostolic succession itself.

As Catholics, we do not bear this marks on our physical being, like some sort of tattoo. However, we do bear them indelibly in our souls because of our baptism. And since we proclaim our belief in these 4 marks of the Church when we pray the Creed, we certainly ought to know what they mean, not just for the Church, but for us. We are meant to be unified with all Catholics, called to be holy, to know that our Church is universal and not simply our local parish or diocese, and that we have pledge (through baptism, the reception of the Eucharist, and our confirmation) to follow the teachings of our bishops and the Pope, so long as none of those teachings defy the Magisterium of the Church.

Most of us will not have the 4 marks of the Church tattooed on our bodies, but they should always be tattooed on our hearts.