Monday, December 31, 2007

Homily for the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God

We celebrate today the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God

The title mother of God does not mean that Mary, who was created by God, existed before God, but that Jesus who existed first, who shares the same Divine Nature as the Father and the Holy Spirit; Jesus who is the Eternal Word of the Father assumed our human nature in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The person who Mary conceived and gave birth to at Bethlehem is God himself. Therefore when we honor Mary with the title Mother of God, we are really honoring Jesus.

Bishops throughout the Christian world gathered in Ephesus in modern day Turkey in 431 to defend Mary’s title as Theotokos or God-bearer which at this time had already become a time honored phrase.

Nestorius, the Patriarch of Constantinople challenged the title. Nestorius was a gifted, clever but weak theologian. He claimed that Mary gave birth to human nature only. He said Mary was the mother of the man Jesus whom God dwelt in as a temple.

St. Cyril of Alexandria defended the divinity of Christ and Mary’s title of God-bearer. St. Cyril said that you can’t give birth to a nature without giving birth to a person. St. Cyril pointed out Nestorius error to Pope Celestine I who convoked the Council of Ephesus to settle the question officially.

As the Council was making its deliberations the people waited outside. When they heard the news that The Council fathers had reaffirmed the teaching of Mary as God-bearer, they cheered the Council Fathers and there was a great celebration. The people led torchlight processions through the streets with the bishops and other delegates.

But Nestorius refused to back down. He held a council at Antioch without the approval of the Pope. The Antiochenes attempted to excommunicate St. Cyril of Alexandria. Instead, delegates from Rome arrived and excommunicated Antiochenes. Sixtus III (432-440) succeeded as Pope. He renovated the Basilica of Santa Maggiore with an icon of Mary, Mother of God.

St. Cyril’s defense of Mary’s title as Mother of God reminds us that Mary always leads us to her Divine Son. To honor Mary is to honor Christ. Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant carried holy bread and tablets of the law, but Mary is far greater because she carried God himself. For while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1, 17) Jesus, our God, took on flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. When we call her Blessed we fulfill her prophecy she made in the Bible in her Magnificat when she said “…from now on will all ages call me blessed”. (Luke 1,48)

Jesus gave us his Mother to be our Mother from the Cross when he said to St. John the Apostle “Behold your mother” and when he said to Mary about St. John “Woman, Behold your son.” St. John says from that hour he “took her into his home.” (John 19, 26-27) We are also called to take Mary into our home to be our mother that she may lead us into a more intimate relationship with her Son, Jesus Christ.

Mary teaches us to pray. She treasured things in her heart. How often do we turn our hearts and reflect on the things God has done for us? We honor Jesus and Mary when we pray the rosary. Praying the rosary is a beautiful way to imitate Mary who reflected on the things that God was doing in her life in her heart. The soul of the rosary is reflecting on the mysteries in the life of Jesus and Mary. The other prayers – the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be form a background for our meditation on the mysteries

We face so many difficulties in this life whether it be sickness or family members who have fallen away from the faith or problems in the world. What can we do? The answer is to start by praying the rosary.

Sister Lucia, who died in 2005, was the last surviving visionary from Fatima. She once told a priest that in the times in which we live the Blessed Mother has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the rosary. She said that Mary “has given this efficacy to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all, spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families, of the families of the world, or of the religious communities, or even of the life of peoples and nations that cannot be solved by the Rosary."

We should always approach Mary the Mother of God, and our mother too, with confidence and devotion. May we always give her the love and honor she deserves. We ask her to help us faithfully imitate her Son. Let us never fail to call on her in all our needs, especially pray for peace and a greater respect for all human life, from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family

On the Sunday after Christmas we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. Every family is called to imitate the Holy Family in some way. Every family is called to be a sanctuary of life and love.

The foundation of society is a marriage between a man and woman who have committed themselves to each other and to God in lifetime union and are open to the generation of new life. Today the family is under attack by those who would place other living arrangements on par with a man and woman united in marriage and also by those who promote contraception, sterilization and abortion. We must be unafraid in answering these attacks and look to the Holy Family as a model.

How can the Holy Family be a model for families today? Their situation was unique in that Mary was perpetually a virgin in view of her role to be the Mother of God.

The Holy Family is a model of self sacrifice. They faced situations that many families face today.

Mary was a young woman faced with an unplanned pregnancy. She fulfilled God’s will by saying yes to the message of God delivered through the Archangel Gabriel, but she needed to place her absolute confidence in God’s protection and providence. The penalty for being found pregnant outside marriage according to Jewish law was stoning to death. But Mary said yes to life. She placed her hope in God, even though she had no health insurance and no guarantee of future income. She trusted God would provide for her and her family.

Joseph is a model for husbands in that he cared for Mary and Jesus during Mary’s pregnancy. He protected them by taking them into Egypt to escape the evil Herod. Like St. Joseph, men are called to be guardians and defenders of life. Fatherhood, like motherhood, begins not at birth, but at the moment of conception in the womb.

Joseph is also a model for fathers in that he taught Jesus his trade of carpentry.

Both Mary and Joseph trained Jesus in the ways of faith. Some think that after Jesus was found in the Temple at the age of 12 that he began formal studies to become a Rabbi. His followers called him “Rabbi” and no one questioned his credentials in this regard, not even his enemies.

Traditionally St. Joseph is considered to be the patron of a happy death since he is believed to have died in the company of Jesus and Mary. We believe that Mary and Jesus cared for St. Joseph at the end of his life on earth. So we are reminded that life is precious up to the moment of natural death. Deliberately acting or withholding treatment to cause death is always wrong. We are not required to use extraordinary means to preserve life, but euthanasia is always wrong. There is a world of difference between death take its natural course, accepting it as a part of life and deliberately causing death. Food and water must always be given to a sick person on the progression toward a natural death.

Mary is also a model for those who mourn, having lost her husband early in life and seeing her only son die on the cross. She reminds us to trust in God, knowing that he is close to the brokenhearted. She is also a model of forgiveness as she forgave those who were responsible for his death.

Even right after his birth Jesus faced danger. Herod was afraid of losing power so he searches for the infant Jesus who he considers a potential future rival in order to kill him. Even as an infant, Jesus was a sign of contradiction to the world. This reminds us of the conflict between a culture of life and the culture of death that we see in our day.

In January of 1999 Pope John Paul II visited St. Louis and spoke of a great conflict occurring in our coutry today between “a culture that affirms, cherishes and celebrates the gift of life, and a culture that seeks to declare entire groups of human beings -- the unborn, the terminally ill, the handicapped, and others considered 'unuseful' -- to be outside the boundaries of legal protection."

In 1994 Mother Teresa spoke of the harm abortion has done to America when she said "America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships. It has aggravated the derogation of the father's role in an increasingly fatherless society. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts -- a child -- as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered dominion over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters"

“And, in granting this unconscionable power, it has exposed many women to unjust and selfish demands from their husbands or other sexual partners. Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being's entitlement by virtue of his humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared to be contingent, on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign."

It was both Pope John Paul II’s and Mother Teresa’s hope, that Americans of every race, ethnic group, economic condition and creed would resist the culture of death and choose to stand steadfastly on the side of life. One crucial element of that choice is that the nation continues to honor and revere the family as the basic unit of society.

What can we do to defend the family? First we can promote chastity. The foundation for marriage is the virtue of chastity. Chastity should not be understood as a repressive attitude, but rather the temporary stewardship of a rich and precious gift to be realized in each person’s specific vocation. Chastity respects God’s plan for human sexuality and his plan to transmit new human life.

We can also help women who are pregnant to make a choice for life. In his Letter to Families in 1994 Pope John Paul II recalled the Lat Judgment scene in the Gospel of Matthew. When Jesus will say to the blessed "Come, O blessed of my Father... for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me…" (Mt 25:34-36). He tells us that his list could be lengthened to include countless other problems relevant to married and family life. There we might very well find statements like: "I was an unborn child, and you welcomed me by letting me be born"; "I was an abandoned child, and you became my family"; "I was an orphan, and you adopted me and raised me as one of your own children". Or again: "You helped mothers filled with uncertainty and exposed to wrongful pressure to welcome their unborn child and let it be born".

He also refers to the other list, solemn and terrifying. "Depart from me... for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink… (Mt 25:41-43). To this list also we could add other ways of acting, in which Jesus is present in each case as the one who has been rejected. In this way he would identify with the abandoned wife or husband, or with the child conceived and then rejected.

Pope Benedict XVI has been equally strong in his defense of human life and the family. In November of 2007, Pope Benedict XVI visited Kenya and instructed the bishops that “[w]hen you preach the Gospel of Life, remind your people that the right to life of every innocent human being, born or unborn, is absolute and applies equally to all people with no exception whatsoever."
At the same time he said that the Catholic community “must offer support to those women who may find it difficult to accept a child, above all when they are isolated from their family and friends.” Catholics should also “be open to welcome back all who repent of having participated in the grave sin of abortion, and should guide them with pastoral charity to accept the grace of forgiveness, the need for penance, and the joy of entering once more into the new life of Christ."

All of us have a role to play in strengthening the family and defending life. We should pray to the Holy Family today that they may grant us the grace to be faithful to our mission to build a new culture of life where each family will be a sanctuary of love and life, where every human being will be welcomed, protected, nurtured and loved from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Pro-Life Case Against Rudolph Giuliani

The Republican Party is on the verge of electing its first pro-abortion President since Gerald Ford, who became the President not by being elected, but who assumed office after the resignation of President Nixon. It is assumed that Rudolph Giuliani is the only candidate who can beat Hillary Clinton. I don’t think this is true. Hillary Clinton is a weak candidate and has shown so recently by a poor performance in a debate and a controversy over planted questions at town hall meetings. She is only helped by the fact that her Democratic opponents are even weaker.

If Rudolph Giuliani wins the Republican nomination and beats Hillary Clinton in 2008, it will be a victory of the liberal Rockefeller wing of the Republican Party – a victory which may be pyrrhic. Many of the so-called Reagan Democrats, attracted to the pro-life values the Republican Party stood for since President Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, will leave and weaken the Party in future elections. Despite the endorsement by leaders such Pat Robertson, they may walk away sooner, in 2008, and lead to at least four more years of the Clintons. I might be persuaded to hold my nose and vote for Giuliani if he gets the nomination, as a way of limiting evil and averting an even greater potential disaster for our nation. But many of my fellow pro-lifers would not and could not do so, in conscience.

Rudolph Giuliani has claimed to be “personally opposed” to abortion and has said that he even hates abortion, but when he appeared on the Phil Donohue television program he said “I have a daughter now. I would give my personal advice, my religious and moral views…I would help her with taking care of the baby. But if the ultimate choice of the woman — my daughter or any other woman — would be that in this particular circumstance, to have an abortion, I’d support that. I’d give my daughter the money for it.” Mr. Giuliani if you believe abortion is wrong and you claim that you are “personally opposed” to it, how could you pay to have your own grandchild killed by abortion?

If you were "personally opposed" to abortion would you give money to a business that committed abortions? Records also show Giuliani made personal donations to the largest abortion business the United States - Planned Parenthood. Over three million pre-born babies have been killed in Planned Parenthood’s facilities since 1973. According to website, federal tax returns indicate that Giuliani and his former wife Donna Hanover made several personal donations to Planned Parenthood throughout the 1990’s totaling $900.

Giuliani claims that he gave money to Planned Parenthood to promote adoption, but the number of adoption referrals by Planned Parenthood has steadily declined over the years. Planned Parenthood commits 80 abortions for each adoption they refer for.

Giuliani claims that the number of abortions in New York City fell during the time he was mayor because of his promotion of adoption. The Guttmacher Institute found that Giuliani’s claims are unsupportable. Fordham University political science professor Bruce Berg reviewed all the tapes of Mayor Giuliani's press conferences dating back to 1996. According to Berg, Mayor Giuliani never once promoted adoption.

Rudy Giuliani NOW says he against the federal funding of abortion, but when he was running for mayor in 1989 Giuliani said: "There must be public funding for abortion for poor women." "I have also stated that I disagree with President Bush's veto last week of public funding for abortion."

Rudy Giuliani NOW says he is opposed to the gruesome practice of partial-birth abortion, but his position on this has changed his position, but when he appeared on CNN’s “Inside Politics” on December 2, 1999 Giuliani was asked whether he supported a ban on partial-birth abortions. He responded “No, I have not supported that, and I don’t see my position on that changing.”

]n 1997, when Giuliani was running for re-election as mayor he filled out a questionnaire for the National Abortion Rights Action League. At that time he supported Medicaid funding of abortion without restrictions. He opposed parental notification before a minor could have her child aborted and he also opposed a ban on the gruesome practice of partial-birth abortions.

Giuliani says that he will appoint conservative judges. What guarantee do we have of this? Is he likely to appoint a pro-life judge who could face a tough confirmation battle if a pro-life conviction doesn’t stem from his heart?

If Rudy Giuliani were to have a sincere conversion to a pro-life position that would be wonderful, but excuse me for being suspicious that his shifting position on such an important issue as the sanctity of life are the result of his shifting career goals. As of now, I haven’t decided who I will vote for in the Republican primary, but I have definitely ruled out Rudolph Giuliani and I urge others to do the same.

See also:

Rudy Giuliani on Partial Birth Abortion

Rudy Giuliani on Public Funding of Abortion

“Abortions Outpace Adoption 80-1 at Planned Parenthood” by Jason Pierce May 08, 2002

Rudy Giuliani Made Many Donations to Planned Parenthood Abortion Business
by Steven EditorMay 8, 2007

Rudy Giuliani's Mayoral Backing of Adoption Over Abortion Never Existed
by Steven EditorOctober 1, 2007

Pro-Abortion Group Says Rudy Giuliani Nomination Would Help Its Efforts
by Steven EditorOctober 10, 2007

Abortion Advocate Says Rudy Giuliani's Adoption Claims "Unsupportable"
by Steven EditorOctober 29, 2007

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Why Not Gay Marriage? Sexual Complementarity

Many who oppose same-sex marriage are afraid to engage in a frank discussion of homosexuality due to a fear of being labeled as “homophobic”. Homophobia is an irrational fear of homosexuality. I reject the label “homophobic” simply because I believe that homosexual behavior is unnatural and immoral.

In some countries, questioning the morality of homosexual behavior can lead to being charged with a hate crime. But freedom of speech can be lost not only by laws against it, but also when people are intimidated enough so that they don’t say what they really think. In this way, people who speak up and say controversial things, even at the risk of being the subject to false accusations, help to defend true freedom of speech.

Everyone, no matter what their sexual orientation, deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. People of homosexual orientation should be protected against unjust discrimination. In my opinion, sexual orientation develops in early childhood, so it’s true when people say that they didn’t choose to be a homosexual. Although when vulnerable young people, especially in early adolescence, are subjected to homosexual propaganda they can be influenced to experiment with homosexuality when they otherwise wouldn’t. But I reject the idea that sexual orientation should be treated the same as race.

I respect the fact that most people don’t share my religious beliefs, but I think there are good, secular reasons to reject “gay marriage”. (I put this in quotes since marriage, by definition, is a relationship between man and woman.) In this article, I don’t intend to cite all the arguments against “gay marriage”. A complete treatment of the subject of “gay marriage” is found on the website of Catholic Answers. I will address what I think is the crux of the argument which is the idea of sexual complementarity.
Sexual complementarity is the common sense view that there are fundamental biological, emotional and psychological differences between the sexes, and that males and females complement one another. Members of the opposite sex lack the perfections and the capabilities of the other.
Time Magazine reported that scientists have found that there are subtle neurological differences between men and women in brain structure and functioning in a cover story entitled "Sizing Up the Sexes" on January 20, 1992.

The idea that the sexes are different and complement one another, and a special recognition of the relationship between a man and woman committed to one another in marriage, spans different religions and cultures throughout the centuries. One does not even have to believe in God to see that there is a natural design in the bodies of man and woman.
The male and female reproductive systems are fully complementary. This is so recognized in our culture that even certain pipe fittings are called male and female, because of the way they are designed to fit together. Male and female body parts are naturally designed for the continuation of the human race. Without getting into all the gory details a man’s body is not designed by nature for the reception of another man. Certain body parts were designed not for sex, but for the elimination of waste.
Unnatural acts result in trauma and a variety of sexually transmitted diseases. Among the diseases commonly transmitted through homosexual sex are: gonorhea, syphilis, herpes simplex infections, genital warts, pubic lice, hepatitis B, hepatitis non-A, non-B, and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). For more information see the article The Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality .

Sadly we know that many marriages between heterosexuals fail, but this is not a reason to change the nature of marriage. Mothers and fathers provide complementary gifts to their children. No matter how good a father is, he can never give the same type of love that a mother can, and vice-versa. The best environment for children to be raised is with a mother and father who love one another and are committed for life. We need to work together to help strengthen marriage, not weaken it by giving other relationships status and benefits.

It is my hope to enter into a rational and respectful dialogue with those who disagree with me. Although in the past, I have been very disappointed by people who claim to be “tolerant” who are anything but tolerant for people who have a different view than theirs.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Solemnity of the Assumption

The Assumption of the Virgin was painted by Bartolome Esteban Murillo of Spain in 1670. The painting is on display in The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia.

The Solemnity of Assumption is the oldest feast day of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but we don't know how it first came to be celebrated.

After the course of her earthly life was over, Mary had been taken up, body and soul, into heaven. There are different theological opinins as to whether Mary died first or was taken up to heaven alive. We believe that this was a privilege granted to her which follows from the Immaculate Conception and the fact that she remained faithful to God throughout her life. The Assumption completes God's work in her since it was not fitting that the flesh that had given life to God himself should ever undergo corruption.

Both the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption are special privileges granted to Mary because of her unique role she was to play to be the Mother of the Savior. She needed the Savior too. It was because God foresaw the future sacrifice of his son and the role Mary was to play, that he granted her the privilege of the Immaculate Conception.

In Mary God recreates human nature. Mary’s ‘yes’ reversed the ‘no’ of Eve. In the Gospel of Luke Mary is spoken of in the same manner as the Ark of the Covenant. The Book of Revelation speaks about the Ark revealed in heaven and a Woman clothed with the Sun who does battle with the Dragon as she protects her Son. The Church sees the Woman as Mary who will play an important role in Christ’s Second Coming as she did in his First Coming.

Mary’s Assumption reminds us that the body is not just a thing, a container we use temporarily and toss aside at death. We are constituted of both both body and soul. They are united. In heaven we will have bodies, but they’lll be made perfect immortal and indestructible. So we should treat even the bodies of the dead with respect.

The Assumption was proclaimed as a dogma, that is, a teaching that all Catholics were called to believe in 1950. This was before the advent of the sexual revolution and radical feminism which led to the degradation of the woman’s body, pornography, contraception, abortion, divorce, the breakdown of the family. These evils grew stronger as devotion to Mary waned.
It is devotion to Mary that is an antidote for these evils.

We call on Mary today to bring about a victory of the culture of life. A victory for modesty, chastity, respect for life, the family constituting one man and one woman committed for life and open to the transmission of human life as the foundation of society, respect for the vocation of motherhood and the vocation to the consecrated life.

Mary’s prayers are powerful in heaven, since she holds a privileged place there. We should call on her often to intercede for our nation and in all our personal needs.

The feast reminds us of eternity and heavenly glory. Where Mary has gone, we hope to follow. Heaven awaits us too, if we are faithful on this earth to our own particular vocation in life. We will experience heaven in our bodies, but our bodies will be changed to become glorious, immortal and indestructible.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act

I oppose abortion. It is without a doubt the killing of an innocent human being. In my opinion, the killing of over 1.2 million babies by abortion each year is the worst human rights abuse occurring in our country today. But while I believe protecting the right to life is one of the most important issues, it’s not the only issue I care about. An even more important issue is the issue of national security. Because I am pro-life, I also believe in a strong national defense. After all, if a terrorist with nuclear bomb sets it off in a major city millions of people will die and many thousands of others will be seriously injured. If our national security is threatened all other rights, including the right to life of each one of us, will be at risk as well.

I’ve noticed, though there are some exceptions, it’s the politicians who fail to protect the lives of children in the womb who also weakest in protecting our national security. Father Frank Pavone of Priests For Life asks “If politicians can't respect the life of a little baby, how are they going to respect yours?”

A recent example of this was the fight over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. FISA was enacted after legitimate concerns about the abuse of domestic surveillance under the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon Administrations. It was supposed to protect Americans against eavesdropping, but it also allows the interception of overseas communications under certain circumstances.

The National Security Agency (NSA) can intercept foreign communications, but only outside the U.S. It can intercept domestic signals only if the person on the other end is a foreign power, but a warrant must be obtained first. The problem is that we can listen to the calls of known terrorists, but we can’t listen in on conversations of sleeper agents who have not yet been identified. By the time a warrant is obtained, it may be too late.

After September 11, 2001 President Bush authorized the NSA to bypass the special court set up to provide warrants for national-security wiretaps. The authority was limited only to certain cases of suspected Al Qaeda activity. President Bush believed the U.S. government had to be able to act fast to intercept the communications of people outside the U.S. with known links to Al Qaeda." Bush said. That since Al Qaeda was not a conventional enemy, “This new threat required us to think and act differently." Leaders in Congress were consulted regularly about the program. In December of 2005, someone leaked information about this program to the New York Times. The New York Times published information about this secret program which greatly damaged our ability prevent future terrorist attacks. Once the terrorists knew the techniques we were using to monitor them, their communications dried up. I have not bought a copy of the New York Times since.

After this, the program was scaled back considerably. A compromise was eventually reached in 2006 that agreed to scale back the program and to submit it to the FISA court for legal review. But even that scaled down program came under fire. In an overly legalistic interpretation of the law, one judge said that since some phone calls, emails and internet sites are routed through switches in the U.S., the domestic FISA regulations must apply to intercepts of overseas communications.

This insane interprtation of the law, calls to mind what President Thomas Jefferson said when he was accused of overreaching his constitutional authority in acquiring territory for the United States in the Louisiana Purchase. Jefferson said that a "strict observance of the written law is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to the written law, would be to lose the law itself, with life, liberty, property and all those who are enjoying them with us; thus absurdly sacrificing the ends to the means."

Led by the pro-abortion American Civil Liberties Union, pro-abortion Democrat Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives and pro-abortion Democrat Senator Carl Levin have attacked President Bush and accused him of undermining the Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful search and seizure.

Even the bi-partisan September 11 Commission recognized problems with the slowness and inefficiency of the bureaucracy involved in seeking warrants from the FISA court when seeking to track down terrorists. The problem is not that court is slow in granting approvals for wiretaps, but the time it takes get an application for FISA together before it can be submitted to the court.

Recently Adam Gadahn, a spokesperson for Al Qaeda, released a video to the media threatening a terrorist attack which he labeled “The Big Surprise” Imagine this scenario. An officer from the National Security Agency (NSA) is listening in on a phone conversation from a phone call that originates overseas is from a known terrorist and is coming into the United States. In the call, the terrorist overseas is giving instructions for an attack to a member of an Al Qaeda cell here in the United States.

What would you instruct the NSA officer to do? Would you tell him to:
1. Record the call and start an immediate trace of the phone in the United States; 2. Alert the FBI to the threatened terrorist attack; 3. Listen to the conversation for further clues regarding enemy codes for future intercepts; 4. All of the above. If you chose any one of these responses you would be breaking U.S. law, because it is illegal to eavesdrop on people inside the U.S.

On Saturday August 11, 2007, the Congress finally passed a bill to update FISA. The updated version of FISA will now allow the government to intercept communications, without warrants, only between two foreigners that are routed through equipment in United States. This is only permitted if "foreign intelligence information" is at stake. If the government wants to eavesdrop on a U.S. resident, they would still have to obtain a warrant from the special FISA court. Enough Democrats finally relented to pass the bill because they wanted to go on vacation for the Congressional August recess.

The new law will expire in six months, unless Congress reauthorizes it. The Bush Administration wanted the changes to be permanent. Because of delays and leaks we have lost months of time that could have been spent in gathering valuable intelligence against our enemies who want to destroy us.

The very same people who have labored, often with great success, to obstruct the appointment of pro-life judges are trying to undermine the ability of intelligence officers to protect our national security. If Al Qaeda is successful in pulling off their “Big Surprise”, many Democrats, along with their lapdogs in the "mainstream media", will undoubtedly blame President Bush. But I put the blame on the Democrats in Congress, the New York Times, the ACLU and others, especially in the media, who have fought President Bush, at every turn, when he sought to strengthen our intelligence gathering capability against our foreign enemies and defend our national security.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Saint Sixtus II, Pope and Martyr

St. Sixtus entrusts St. Lawrence with a money bag to give to the poor. This fresco by Fra Angelico, painted between 1447-1449, is found in the Capella Nicolina, Vatican, Rome.

In the early Church, Saint Sixtus was the most highly venerated Pope after St. Peter. His name is included in the first Eucharistic Prayer.

Sixtus converted to Christianity as an adult. He served as a deacon in Rome before he was consecrated as Pope on August 30, 257. Sixtus was the Pope for less than a year, before he was martyred. During his short reign he dealt with the controversy of Baptisms performed by heretics. His conclusion was that if a person had a sincere desire to be baptized, he was validly baptized despite the errors of the person performing the sacrament.

In the first three centuries of the existence of the Catholic Church, most of the Popes were martyred. Before Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which granted religious tolerance to Christians, there were ten major persecutions of Christians by the Roman Empire. In 257, the Emperor Valerian directed a major persecution against Bishops, priests and deacons.

During this persecution, Christians held their sacred assemblies in subterranean caverns called catacombs. These assemblies were expressly forbidden by Valerian. But Christians chose to obey the law of God, rather than the law of man. Pope Sixtus was seized while offering Mass at the catacombs of Praetextatus along the Appian Way. Sixtus was probably immediately beheaded after his arrest on August 6, 258. Some say that St. Sixtus was beheaded while still seated in the chair from which he had been addressing his flock. Others say that he was taken away for examination and returned to the scene for execution. Two deacons (Felicissimus and Agapitus), and subdeacons (Januarius, Magnus, Stephanus, and Vincentius) were killed on the same day.

Four days later St. Lawrence was martyred. According to legend, Sixtus met St. Lawrence on the way to his execution and predicted that Lawrence would follow him in a few days, but the legend cannot be verified. Saint Sixtus was buried at the nearby catacomb of Saint Callistus. Callistus was one of the predecessors of Sixtus who had also been martyred. The Christians enshrined the bloodstained chair, on which Saint Sixtus was beheaded, behind his tomb.

Below is a letter by Saint Cyprian announcing the death of Saint Sixtus II. Cyprian had sent representatives to Rome to get some news about the decree of Emperor Valerian. They returned with the painful news of the death of Pope Sixtus II.

Carthage, August 258

My dearest brother, I was unable to send you a letter earlier because none of the clergy of this Church could move, being all under persecution, which however, thank God, found them inwardly most ready to pass at once to heaven. I now send you what news I have.

The envoys I sent to Rome have returned. I sent them to verify and report the decision taken by the authorities concerning myself, whatever it may be, and so put an end to all the speculations and uncontrolled hypotheses which circulated. And now here is the truth, duly ascertained.

Emperor Valerian has sent the Senate his rescript by which he has decided that bishops, priests and deacons shall immediately be put to death. Senators, notables and those who have the title of Roman knighthood shall be deprived of all dignities, as well as of their possessions. If they are obstinate in profess Christianity, even after the confiscation, they will be condemned to capital punishment.

Christians matrons will have all their goods confiscated and then be sent into exile. All imperial functionaries who have professed faith or should do so now, will suffer the same confiscation. They will then be arrested and registered for forced labour on the imperial estates.

Valerian also adds to the rescript a copy of a letter he has sent to the provincial governors concerning myself. I expect this letter any day and hope to receive it quickly, keeping myself firm and strong in faith. My decision in the face of martyrdom is quite clear. I am waiting for it, full of confidence that I shall receive the crown of eternal life from the goodness and generosity of God.

I have to report that Sixtus suffered martyrdon with four deacons on 6th of August, while he was in the "Cemetery" area (the catacombs of St. Callixtus).The Roman authorities have a rule that all who are denounced as Christians must be executed and their goods forfeited to the imperial treasury.

I ask that what I have reported be made known to our colleagues in the episcopate, so that by their exhortations our communities may be encouraged and ever more prepared for the spiritual combat. This will stimulate them to consider not so much death as the blessings of immortality, and to consecrate themselves to the Lord with ardent faith and heroic fortitude, to delight and not to fear at the thought of testifying their faith. The soldiers of God and of Christ know very well that their immolation is not so much a death but a crown of glory.

To you, dear brother, my greetings in the Lord " (Letter

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Homily on St. Thomas the Apostle

This painting by Caravaggio is called "The Incredulity of Saint Thomas".

St. Thomas was one of the twelve apostles chosen by Jesus to follow him and preach the Kingdom of God. He is called “Doubting Thomas” because he refused to believe the other ten remaining apostles who had seen Jesus risen from the dead. He said "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe." (John 20, 25)

Jesus appeared to his apostles, including Thomas, the next week. He asked him to place his fingers in his hands and not to persist in his unbelief. St. Thomas responded could fall down before Christ and worship Him, saying, “My Lord and my God.”

Pope St. Gregory the Great said of St. Thomas “The disbelief of Thomas has done more for our faith than the faith of the other disciples. As he touches Christ and is won over to belief, every doubt is cast aside and our faith is strengthened. So the disciple who doubted, then felt Christ's wounds, becomes a witness to the reality of the resurrection.”

At the Last Supper, Jesus tells the apostles that he is going to prepare a place for them in heaven. They know where he is going and they know the way. Thomas reveals his inquisitive nature again, speaking for the other disciples he asks for a deeper explanation saying "Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" (John 14, 5) Jesus begins his response with the words “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14, 6)

We can imagine how the apostles must have been filled with joy at seeing the Lord raised from the dead, but the resurrection of Jesus is more than a historical event that we believe and then pass over. The resurrection of Jesus Christ applies to us in our life now. It is an ongoing and ever-present reality.

The resurrection gives us hope today as we struggle in our fight against evil and temptation. The resurrection brings hope even to our darkest moments sickness or the loss of a loved one. Mother Teresa once said “Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of the Christ risen.”

Despair is a sin contrary to the virtue of hope. In a sense, it is a practical atheism. When we’re tempted with feelings of despair we’re like fools who gaze into the empty tomb wondering where Jesus is. He is risen from the dead! When we live in the light of the resurrection, we will not become despondent.

Because of Christ’s resurrection we have hope of eternal life. Because of Christ’s resurrection we are also strengthened for our duties on this earth. The resurrection of Christ gives us hope that we can overcome a culture of death and build a culture of life.

Jesus said to Thomas, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed." This applies to us if we believe in the resurrection and draw strength from it.

After witnessing Jesus risen from the dead, St. Thomas preached the Gospel in Parthia, Persia and India before being martyred in India by being stabbed by a spear around the year 72 A.D. Like St. Thomas the Apostle, we are called to overcome our doubts, believe in the resurrection and put the Gospel into practice in our lives.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Homily on Conscience and Truth based on Matthew 6

In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus says “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness. And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be. “ (Matthew 6, 19-23)

When Jesus speaks of the eye, he is speaking of the conscience, by which we are able to hear the voice of God and to discern good from evil. St. Thomas More followed the voice of his conscience which brought him onto conflict with King Henry VIII who had him beheaded for his refusal to approve of his divorce and to take an Oath of Supremacy recognizing Henry as the head of the Church in England.

The Second Vatican Council document Gaudium et Spes says,
“Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. . . . His conscience is man's most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths." (GS 16)

A human being must never be forced to act against his conscience, especially in religious matters. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects this fundamental human right.

We should always follow our certain conscience, but we must be aware that conscience can sometimes be wrong. That is why it is necessary to properly inform our consciences. A person would still morally responsible for his bad actions even if he acted with a certain conscience, if he failed to inform his conscience properly.

The relativistic notion is false that “What's true for you is true for you, but it may not be true for me. This point became clear in the mind of Pope Benedict XVI when participating in a debate on the justifying power of the subjective conscience. Someone objected to the idea by saying that if were true that we could expect to see the Nazi SS in heaven since they carried out their atrocities with fanatic conviction and complete certainty of conscience. Pope Benedict came to the conclusion that the theory that a person could be justified merely by following his subjective conscience must be false.

A person can't be sure he's right just because he has a firm subjective conviction, lacks doubt or has no guilt feelings. A person is responsible for the evil he commits with a certain conscience when he "takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin." (GS 16) People can become blind to what is true and good if they are ignorant about Christ and his Gospel, by giving in to temptation, scandal, the rejection of the teaching authority of the Church and a lack of true repentance and charity.

We have an obligation to form our consciences correctly by meditating on the Word of God and the teaching of the Church. It’s not an easy task since we’re prone to pride, and tempted to prefer our own judgments and reject even legitimate authority.

The task of educating our consciences doesn’t end with religious instruction. It’s a lifelong task, but the education of children in this regard is particularly important. A child who has not received adequate religious training is like a ship set in the ocean without a compass. Christ promised that the truth would set us free. The proper education of the conscience leads to true freedom and peace of mind.

In order for us to hear this voice clearly we need to pray, reflect and examine our conscience. St. Augustine says “Return to your conscience, question it. . . . Turn inward, brethren, and in everything you do, see God as your witness.”

For more information see:

Conscience and Truth by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger presented at the 10th Workshop for Bishops February 1991 Dallas, Texas

Moral Conscience from the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Homily on the Lord's Prayer Matthew 6, 7-15

In our Gospel today, Jesus teaches us that it is not the amount of words, nor the time we spend, but faith that is important as we pray to our Father in heaven.

This does not preclude spending an extended time in prayer. We see in the Gospels how Jesus spent whole nights in prayer. Nor does the teaching preclude the use of repetition in prayer as we do in the rosary, as long as we have the right intention and don’t look upon it as some sort of incantation. The most important part of the rosary is our meditation on the meditations in which we reflect on the lives of Jesus and Mary.

“Our Father, who is in heaven.” God is not an impersonal force, but Our Father in heaven. Our relationship with him should be a relationship built on love and trust, more than fear of hell.

“Hallowed be thy name.” Reverence is due to God’s Holy Name. His name should be honored and acknowledged by all creatures. We ask that his name be kept holy, not for his sake, but for ours. Irreverence degrades the irreverent person. Sin hurts God only in the sense that he loves us and hates seeing us degrade ourselves. We should pray the Divine Praises in reparation for sins of blasphemy.

“Thy Kingdom come.” Some people fear the end of the world, but we pray “Thy Kingdom Come”. We pray that justice may done on this earth. We pray that we might bring it about through our actions, especially through faithfulness to our daily duty.

“Thy will be done.” We ask God’s grace to fulfill his commands because in his will is our peace. God only commands what is ultimately good for us. When we obey his commands, we become instruments of his love.

“Give us this day our daily bread.” We don’t pray for an annual, monthly or even weekly supply. We ask simply for the needs of the current day. Alcoholics Anonymous encourages its members to remain sober by focusing on day at a time. The

Friday, June 15, 2007

Homily for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

In 1677, Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a Visitation nun, in France in a vision and revealed his Sacred Heart. She said

I could plainly see His heart, pierced and bleeding, yet there were flames, too, coming from it and a crown of thorns around it. He told me to behold His heart which so loved humanity. Then He seemed to take my very heart from me and place it there in His heart. In return He gave me back part of His flaming heart.
The Church promotes devotion to Sacred Heart of Jesus. The devotion precedes the private revelation and is solidly supported by Scripture. Jesus says: "Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart" (Matthew 11:29) "One of the soldiers pierced His side with a lance; and immediately there came out blood and water." (Jn. 19:34)

This devotion is essentially worship and a response to the Person of Christ. The Christian faith is a response to Christ as a living, loving person, not just embracing a set of principles. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is not a peripheral devotion, to honor and love God is the heart of our faith.

The person of Christ and His work can be summarized in love. He is our savior. He died for us. He proved his love by dying for us. Each one of us can say He died for me.

Love is the reason for our existence. It is why God sent his Son to redeem us, why he sustains us. He calls us to be with him forever. God’s love for us demands a response. When we commit sin, we don’t simply break a rule. We hurt the person who loves us most and whose love we should return.

Jesus loves us with a human and Divine love. Love is symbolized by the heart. The Biblical meaning of the heart is the whole interior life of the person: his or sentiments, memories, thoughts, reasoning and planning.

Jesus used the word 'heart" in this sense when he says

But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, un-chastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile. (Matthew 15, 18-20)

Jesus has the most perfect human feelings and perceptions. He feels the sting of man's ingratitude. He feels the severity of being rejected. This rejection took the form of crucifixion.

He continues to love those who reject his love. He doesn’t force us to love him. Every sin is in some way a rejection of Christ’s love. Our failure to love him as we should hurts us. It also hurts him.

He told St. Margaret Mary that the ingratitude of man for his love was worse than his physical sufferings. We need to console Him and do reparation, first for our own sins and then for the sins of others.

We console him by placing our faith and trust in him, following his commandments, being faithful to our daily duty, honoring his Sacred Heart, loving God and our neighbor.

Below are the promises of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque:

1. I will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.
2. I will establish peace in their homes.
3. I will comfort them in their afflictions.
4. I will be their secure refuge during life, and above all in death.
5. I will bestow a large blessing upon all their undertakings.
6. Sinners shall find in My Heart the source and the infinite ocean of mercy.
7. Tepid souls shall grow fervent.
8. Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.
9. I will bless every place where a picture of My Heart shall be set up and honored.
10. I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.
11. Those who shall promote this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart, never to be blotted out.
12. I promise thee in the excessive mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful love will grant to all those who communicate on the First Friday in nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving the Sacraments; My Divine heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Homily for The Second Sunday of Lent on the Transfiguration

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews tells us that faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see. Without a living faith which is expressed in works of charity we can’t hope to please God. Because faith is a conviction about things that haven’t been realized yet, a conviction about things we hope for and are yet to be, it is a hard road. God does not spell everything out for us. He wants us to trust him.

Abraham who is our father in faith was called from among his people in Haram and called to make a long journey to an unknown land. It would be decades before the promise of the Lord would be fulfilled and he was granted a son, Isaac. He was an old man and his wife Sarah was thought to be barren. Abraham must have been tempted to lose faith in God’s promise to make of him a great nation. And this was the reason that with his wife’s permission, but against the law of God, he conceived a child, Ishmael, through Sarah’s slave girl, Hagar.

And when God finally did fulfill his promise to grant Abraham a legitimate son Isaac through Sarah, God asked him to prepare him for sacrifice. And Abraham who reasoned that God could raise Isaac from the dead followed God’s command. And God sent his angel to hold back his hand once he saw that Abraham was willing to make this sacrifice. Isaac had a son Jacob (Israel). Jacob had twelve sons who were the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel. So our Lord eventually fulfilled his promise and made of Abraham a great nation.

But we can see it was no easy road for Abraham, even Though God spoke to Abraham, in a way he didn’t speak to you or me. For Mary too, the road was a hard one. It is true she was visited by an angel and overshadowed by the Holy Spirit who came in a cloud as God did at Mt. Tabor. But she had to undergo hardships and uncertainty. Suspicion that she had broken the law and engaged in premarital sex with another man while she was engaged, was punishable by death. Later on, a flight into Egypt, knowing Herod wanted to kill Jesus. Living the life of an ordinary woman of her time certainly was not an easy one. And finally watching, as her only begotten Son who the angel said would inherit the throne of his father David, dies on the cross.

When Jesus revealed the fact that he must die to Peter and the other apostles six days before the Transfiguration the apostles were extremely sad even though Jesus also revealed that He would rise again. This part didn’t sink in with them. Jesus realized what they were going through and so out of his compassion he gives his closest companions the gift of the Transfiguration. And so Jesus showed them himself in all his glory as he stands before God the Father in eternity. He also shows them God’s faithful servants who have gone before them and now share in the glory of God.

Each of us has had experiences in our lives that for us can be like the Transfiguration was for the apostles. An experience when we feel especially close to God. In my own life as a priest there have been times when I’ve found out that something I did, a visit I made, or something I said really made an impact on someone’s life. These times compensate for the times when nothing seems to be going right, when people seem unresponsive and life seems wearisome.

Each of us should look back on our lives and try to recognize those times in our lives when we have felt especially close to God. Times perhaps that God didn’t intervene in a miraculous way but nevertheless we felt his presence, we know he was there with either sharing our joy or our sorrow.

We should think about these things when times get tough as they inevitably will for all of us, but especially those who are serious about living a Christian life. We remember not only the ways that God has acted in the past but we have confident assurance that he will be faithful to his promises. He will be faithful to his promises and that having taken us this far , he will never leave us, if only we remain faithful to Him and the path he has marked out for us, with courage and strength. Hard times maybe ahead but God will be right by our side as he was before.

While we look forward to heaven, we must still be strive to create a more just and peaceful world. In their Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities the American bishops wrote "We are not a sect fleeing the world, but a community of faith called to renew the earth."

The Constitution on the Church in the Modern World reminds us that though we have our eyes set on heaven, it doesn’t make us less concerned with the things of this world but more. We are called by God to order the things of this world according to His plan. The document teaches us “we will find the fruits of our efforts on behalf of human dignity and brotherly communion again in the Kingdom of heaven, cleansed of sin and transfigured when Christ presents to His Father an eternal and universal Kingdom of truth and life, a Kingdom of holiness and grace, a Kingdom of justice, love and peace. "

The Transfiguration reminds us of the destiny God wishes for every human being - that they share everlasting life with him in heaven. Human life is sacred because we come from God and we are directed to God as our final end. No one has a right to take the life of an innocent human being. Only he is the Master of human life. Only God's ccan choose to take a life to himself. We must not dare to take a human life that God has created in his image and likeness, a person he commands us to love and one destined for eternal life.

Everyone has a role to play in overcoming the culture of death. God often uses a few to evangelize the many and the weak to shame the strong.

Cardinal John Henry Newman once said:

God has created me to do him some definite service; He has committed some work
to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission; I never may
know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I have a part in a
great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He
has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall
be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not
intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.

And as we pray God will draw us into the struggle to create a culture of life. We will use whatever talents, abilities and strengths we have to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. Not that God needs us, we need to serve God. It is a privilege God grants us out of love to help us to be more like him. In this way he makes us worthy to share everlasting life with him and all the angels and saints.