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Monday, October 26, 2015

On the Road to Jerusalem, the Blind Man's Cry

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Oct 25, 2015
Saints Peter and Paul Parish, Tucson, AZ

“Go your way; your faith has saved you."

In today’s Gospel passage (Mark 10:46-52), we focus on the healing power of faith. We learn of  Bartimaeus, who was a blind beggar. He was one of the many beggars who would sit on the road to Jerusalem. 

As our Lord draws near, Bartimaeus immediately turns to Jesus. He cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” Our Lord stops and heals the man.

In today’s Gospel, we are invited to reflect on the power of faith. 

Bartimaeus was in a desperate situation. He was determined to get Jesus’ attention, even when those around him told him to be quiet. And then Our Lord heals Bartimaeus and says to him,
“Your faith has saved you.” 

My brothers and sisters, today’s Gospel calls us to have the same attitude as Bartimeaus. Although most persons are not physically blind, all of us are blinded by sin. We all need healing.

Yet, today’s story reminds us that if we want to be healed it takes faith on our part. In fact, if we look at the healing Our Lord performed that are  recorded in the Gospels, we can see that

many occurred because of the faith of those  healed. For example, in the Gospel of Matthew and in Luke we hear about the woman suffering from hemorrhages who touches the cloak of Jesus. She says to herself, “If only I can touch His cloak, I shall be cured.” When Jesus sees her faith He heals her and says, “Courage daughter, your faith has saved you." (Matthew 9:22).” 
In another example, Jesus heals two blind men in the Gospel of Matthew (9:29). Jesus asks them if they believe He could heal them. They say yes and Jesus touches their eyes and says, “Let it be done for you according to your faith.” 

Jesus also heals the centurion’s slave in the Gospel of Luke.  He tells the centurion, “I tell you, not even in Israel, have I found such faith." (Luke 7:9). 

These are only a few examples where Our Lord heals a person because of their strong faith. If we want to be healed of our struggles, if we want to attain eternal life, we too must come to Our Lord in faith.

Yet, faith requires humility. As Bartimaeus cried out to Our Lord for pity, we too must cry out. We must acknowledge our need for the Lord. 

The more we approach with humility, the more Christ will open our eyes and our hearts to His grace. He reveals to us our sins. He reveals to us our disordered desires, and then He is able to bring us healing and salvation. We take courage that Jesus is the Divine Healer! 

Faith also requires perseverance. When Bartimaeus heard that Our Lord was near, he would not give up. He cried out in desperation. Even while being rebuked by those around him, Bartimaeus, cried out to Our Lord all the more. 

And then, when Bartimaeus realized that Jesus was calling him, he threw off his cloak and sprang up to meet Jesus. In other words, he threw aside everything he had so that he could come to Jesus! 

So it is with us. If we want healing in our lives, if we want to be saved from our sins, then we too must humble ourselves. We too must persevere in our faith and throw aside anything that prevents us from becoming all who God calls us to be.

I must say that I am very encouraged by the humility and perseverance of the many faithful here at Saints Peter and Paul. So many of you are extremely devoted to the sacrament of confession! 

Please, I encourage you, keep on coming to confession, no matter how much you may

wear us priests out! No matter how much we fall, we must continue to persevere in faith! We must continue to cry out to Our Lord with a humble and contrite heart saying, "Jesus,  Son of David, have pity on me.”

Jesus is the Divine Healer. He has come into our world to heal us and save us from our sins. Let us persevere in our faith with humility so that we can receive the saving power of God and attain eternal life. For it is our faith that will save us! Amen!

Did you enjoy this post? There are many more sermons by Fr. John Paul Shea on this blog. You may like this one:

Monday, October 12, 2015

Pope Francis Comes to North America, and Catholic Pundits Can't Agree on the Outcome

by Lawrence Fox 

Curiosity kills the cat.
Pope Francis visits USA Sept. 22-27, 2015
While driving home from Lincoln, Nebraska, when Pope Francis was visiting the United States, I turned on the car radio to hear what was being said.

I heard visceral rhetoric opposed to the Pope's visit, complaining about what he didn't say, and jubilant rhetoric in favor of words they imagined he said. I tried my best not to engage the conversation on either side. Years ago I was told, “We are Catholics and disciples of Jesus Christ and not disciples of mad and sometimes foolish people.” 

Catholic pundits rejecting the Deposit of Faith -- as captured in the encyclicals Casti Connubi by Pope Pius XI and Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI -- castigated Pope Francis for seeking an end to capital punishment among the modern nations.

It seems many forgot that it was Pope Saint John Paul II who outlined in his encyclical, Gospel of Life, the moral argument against capital punishment when other options, such as permanent incarceration, were available. It was stated that Pope Francis did not speak clear enough on the horrors of abortion before Congress. 
"The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development. This conviction has led me to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. Every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes." Pope Francis before Congress with Speaker of the House Catholic John Boehner weeping. 
Many forgot that Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta spoke about the dire consequences of abortion in 1994 before U.S. President Bill Clinton, members of the United Nations and U.S. Congress, and students at various universities. "But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself." She spoke also of contraception: "The way to plan the family is natural family planning, not contraception." 

Blessed Mother Teresa warned that tolerance for such an evil would result in a greater evil -- nuclear war. And it appears the world – unrepentant for its sins of abortion -- is going merrily into hell in a hand basket as all the conditions for nuclear World War III are emerging in the Middle East.

I cannot think of one politician who publicly changed his or her position on abortion as a result of Mother Teresa’s comments. If someone did then, “Praise God!”

I remember a young woman in charge of the youth in my parish, saying, “My greatest inspiration is Mother Teresa of Calcutta.” Months later she invited speakers from Planned Parenthood to speak to the youth about human sexuality without allowing their parents to attend the presentation. So much talk -- with no conversion of heart.
"At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future." Pope Francis told members of Congress
Most of the world heard Mother Teresa speak about the gift of human life and so what? Even after it was revealed that Planned Parenthood alters the abortion procedure to provide living children for body parts, Catholics and Christians still support Planned Parenthood. Does anyone really think that if Pope Francis used the word “abortion” before Congress anything would change? I certainly do not.

Blessed John Paul II wrote eloquently about the gift of human sexuality. Pope Benedict spoke about the philosophical errors promoting same-sex unions. I cannot think of one politician who publicly changed his or her position on same-sex unions as a result of encountering Catholic teaching.

More often than not, we hear, “God does not make junk.” It’s a theological argument in favor of same-sex unions. Again, so much talk -- with no conversion of heart.
"Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children?" Pope Francis's address before Congress on Sept. 24, 2015 
Some castigated Pope Francis for talking about migrants living on a common continent. It was Saint John Paul II who said, there is not a North or South America, only one America. Prudent? I don’t know, but who can know the mind of God? 

“Take care not to be like mad and foolish people who set themselves up to investigate and judge the deeds and habits of God’s servants. Those who do this deserve severe correction.” St. Catherine of Sienna wrote in her letter to Caterina di Scetto (a Dominican laywoman) (Siena Passion for the Truth; Compassion for Humanity page 28)

Sound advice for most Catholic pundits. 

Lawrence Fox also writes biting satire:

Saturday, October 10, 2015

NOTHING is Impossible with God

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Oct. 11, 2015
Saints Peter and Paul Parish, Tucson, AZ

In today’s Gospel (Mark 10:17-30), Jesus
encounters the rich young man. As Jesus is setting out on a journey, a man runs up, kneels down before Him and  asks what he must do to attain eternal life. 

Our Lord reminds him of the commandments. You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal, and so on…
The man says that he already observes all the commandments. Yet, he is still not satisfied. He knows something is missing in his life. 

So Our Lord says to him,
"You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me. At that statement, his face fell,
and he went away sad, for he had many possessions." 

Today's Gospel reminds us of our need for God. Each of us was created for an intimate relationship with our Divine Maker. Like the rich man in today’s Gospel, we all have a hunger for this divine union. Sin, as we know, separates us from God. So Our Lord reminds us we must avoid sin -- if we want eternal life. Keep the commandments. 

Yet, the man emphasizes that he keeps all the commandments. He lives a good life. Yet, he is still not satisfied.

His desire was deeper. He already had everything he could want in life because he was rich. Yet, he leaves Jesus’ presence sad. He was too tied down to the world, and he was not happy. His attachment to the world prevented him from following God’s call. He could not become all that God called him to be. 
Priestly Ordination of Fr. John Paul Shea
My brothers and sisters, in some way each of us are like the rich young man in today’s Gospel. Each of us desires God. Every person -- whether they realize it or not -- desires Truth. This desire is part of the essence of our very being because we were created in God’s image. Yet, we often come  short of true happiness and true freedom because we are tied down to the things of the world.

Instead of seeking God first in our lives, we seek what is of the world such as money or relationships or success or pleasures. We
hold onto material things instead of what truly makes us satisfied. 

If we have many possessions then it becomes easier to distance ourselves from God. Yet, even without a lot of possessions, we can distance ourselves from God and His plan for our lives. Many persons who are wealthy devote their lives to God and His Kingdom.

But what is most important is our attitude toward the things that we do have! Do we place the things of the world above our relationship with God and His will for our lives?
In fact, God is calling many young persons in our Church today to a vocation in the priesthood or religious life, but too many do not answer this call because they are too caught up in the things of the world. 

Married couples are called by God to place their entire marriage and family into God’s hands. Yet, many couples today do not do even get married. Instead, they cohabitate. They take the easy and worldly way out. It will not lead them to eternal life. Like the rich man, cohabiting couples are turning away sad from our Lord’s call in their lives, whether they recognize it or not. 

Today’s Gospel teaches us that no matter what state of life we are in today, no matter what we have done in the past, no matter how much material wealth we may own, God is
calling each one of us to go deeper in our relationship with Him. Yet, our relationship with God requires our commitment.

Faith is not timid! No! True discipleship is not about following Our Lord on our own conditions and terms. True discipleship is not about putting the things of the world first in our lives. True discipleship requires surrendering ourselves to the will of God. True discipleship requires the willingness to give up or change whatever God asks of us.

After Our Lord speaks of the difficulty for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God, the disciples are astonished: “Then who can be
Jesus offers them the million dollar answer: “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God."

All things ARE possible for God! He will give us the grace to leave anything that holds us back from true joy with Him for eternity. He will give us the grace to let go of any behavior or lifestyle that prevents us from entering into eternal life. But, we must surrender ourselves to Him.

When we surrender our lives to God unconditionally, we will become all He calls us to be. It is only by surrendering our will over to God that we can inherit eternal life. Let us take the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in today’s Gospel to heart. For our world and everything in it is passing away. Let us focus on what truly matters.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Send Me Your Angels!

by Susan Fox

“See, I am sending an angel before you, to guard you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared. Be attentive to him and obey him. Do not rebel against him, for he will not forgive your sin. My authority is within him. If you obey him and carry out all I tell you, I will be an enemy to your enemies and a foe to your foes. My angel will go before you and bring you to the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites; and I will wipe them out.” (Exodus 23:20-23)

This is dedicated to my godsons, Ben and Chris, who were baptized on this feast of the angels, Oct. 2nd. (Susan Fox)

Carmelite Mystic and Doctor of the Church St. Teresa of Avila understood her relationship to God as Friend of the Lord.
St. Teresa of Avila by Francois Gerard.
She is Friend of the Lord. 
Therefore she struggled with numerous temptations with respect to friendship during her life.

She was plagued with caring what others thought of her; she enjoyed gossip; she was tempted by false loyalties, and entertained many frivolous friendships about which Jesus warned her sternly.

"I had a very serious fault which led me into great trouble. If I realized that a person liked me, and I liked them, I would grow so fond of them that I would think of them constantly without any intention of offending God. This was such a harmful thing, it was ruining my soul," she said in her autobiography.

Teresa was shocked when a spiritual director told her to abandon certain friendships that were not harming her soul. She feared to do so would be an act of base ingratitude. So her director told her to ask God why she should abandon these friendships while praying the hymn, "Veni Creator." She did so, and was put into ecstasy. She heard these words: "I will have you converse now, not with men, but with

Many people do not realize the value of having a close relationship with their guardian angels.  Our Guardian Angels remain constantly in prayer, seeing the Face of God. To touch their spirits with your heart brings similar peace and prayerfulness. It brings you into the Presence of God. In fact, when you are struggling with distractions in prayer, it is an excellent plan to remember your angels’ presence!

“He has given his angels charge over you to guard you in all your ways. These words should fill you with respect, inspire devotion and instill confidence; respect for the presence of angels, devotion because of their loving service, and confidence because of their protection. And so the angels are here; they are at your side, they are with you, present on your behalf.” Abbot St. Bernard of Clairvaux, (1090-1153 A.D.)

Their job is to protect you and bring you to heaven. That’s what they did for St. Teresa because after she heard God say, "I will have you converse now, not with men, but with angels," she was unable to be friends with anyone -- except those who loved God and were trying to serve Him. By ending all frivolous friendships, she said she received incredible freedom; something she was unable to achieve on her own despite severe penances that almost ruined her health.

Believe me, your guardian angels are worth their weight in gold. Whoops. Humorous spirits, they reminded me they don’t weigh anything. Well, they are more precious to you than gold, silver or any of the world’s riches. Make God your treasure. Blessed be God in his angels and his saints.

Angels have an incredible sense of humor. I was in the Post Office one day and I was looking at a giant picture of the latest U.S. stamp. It was an old painting, portraying angels as 
plump voluptuous women. As I became aware of their presence, I realized my angels were laughing their brains out. Sorry, they don’t have brains. But they thought that depiction was silly.

Today is the Feast of the Guardian Angels, Oct. 2, 2015. During the homily today, Father said he was very surprised that a friend of his actually knew the name of his guardian angel.

Anyone can know the name of his or her guardian angel. I learned this from a holy priest. He talked about the name of his guardian angel during his retreats. He called him “Alfredo.” But actually his name meant the Alpha and the Omega.

This works according to Pope St. Gregory the Great, who explained about the names of angels: These Archangels are also given special names to describe their particular virtue. For Michael means "Who is like unto God?" Gabriel means "Strength
of God," and Raphael "Medicine of God." Whenever something is to be done needing great power, Michael is sent forth so that from his action and from his name we can understand that no one can do what God can do. Hence that old enemy who through pride desired to be like God, saying, "I will scale the heavens, I will set up my throne, I will be like the Most High," is shown at the end of the world left to his own strength, and about to undergo the final punishment, as destined to fight with Michael the Archangel. Similarly, Gabriel was sent to Mary; he who is called "strength of God" came to announce Him who deigned to appear in humility to conquer the powers of the air. And Raphael is interpreted, as we said, "Medicine of God," for when he touched the eyes of Tobias to do the work of healing, he dispelled the night of his blindness.”

So my priest friend had an angel named after Our Lord, the Alpha and the Omega. From this priest, I learned that satan cannot hear your thoughts. Neither can your guardian angel. Only God can hear your thoughts.

But – if you wish -- in silent prayer you can tell God He has permission to let your guardian angel hear your thoughts. Do this quietly, not out loud. You don’t want any evil spirits to hear you talking. I had a spiritual director who was bothered so much by the evil one, she used to pray while washing dishes. He apparently wasn’t aware of her practice and so he left her alone.

Satan cannot hear your confessions, but if you tell everyone your sins – confessed or un-confessed, then he will know them. Best not to tell anyone. I accidentally found out why.

My son was seven years old and about to make his first confession. As a younger boy, he had frequently been in the confessional with me. But now he was seven, and he said, “Mom, let me go in again so I’ll be prepared to make my first confession.” And I let him.

Well, satan didn’t hear that confession either, but when we got out of the confessional, James had understood one thing I confessed, and he was really excited so he spoke only to me about it. However, satan heard us speak of my sin outside the confessional. That night I endured the most horrific temptation to commit that sin again. If he didn’t know what I said in the sanctuary of confession, I never would have been bothered with it.

So I know that angels, fallen or otherwise, cannot hear your thoughts. They cannot hear your confessions.  But tell God to give your guardian angel(s) permission to hear your thoughts, and then ask your angel for his name. Silently.

Now I have suggested this to many people, and children have inevitably found out incredible names for their angels. But I haven’t found an adult who was successful except for my husband, who accidentally blurted the name out in Greek without thinking. LOL.

So I would say you need to be very childlike in your approach in this exercise. 

Angels usually respond with images, not words to that question, “What is your name?” It actually turns into a guessing game. The priest who told me about this said, “Angels like to play little games.”  He noted that when he first asked his guardian angel his name he didn’t answer right away. So he demanded to know if he thought he was greater than God because God gave us His name!

That’s when the priest’s angel confessed his mission had to do with the Alpha and the Omega. And Father started calling him “Alfredo.” Much easier, yes?

After I heard this story, I tried this out that night. Lying in bed pretending I was trying to fall asleep, I told God He could allow my guardian angel to hear my thoughts. Then I said silently in my head, "What is your name?" It’s important now not to discard the first image that comes into your heard. I think that’s where the adults go wrong. They think, “Ahh, it couldn’t be.”

The image of a flower came into my head. I thought of a Lilac or a Lily or a rose, and none of those things fit. Then I said, "It has to do with a daisy, right?" And my angel agreed. Suddenly, I said, "Your name is David!"

Think “Jesus, Son of David. Have mercy on me a sinner.” As a matter of fact, someone later pointed out to me that the Daisy opens up during the day when the Sun (Son) comes out. And Son of David is a title for Jesus Christ, descendant of King David. David also wrestled with bears and defeated the giant Goliath.

So my guardian angel is a bear-wrestling, giant-killing, devil-defeating angel imitating Christ, Divine Son and Son of Man, descended from King David. (Your throne will stand forever.)

Now I made sure this was correct. I asked God for three signs, one every day for the next three days. The next morning one of my fellow retreatants started talking about her deceased husband David over breakfast. In shock, I said, “What did you say your husband’s name was?” She responded, “David.” The next day I was praying and I inadvertently said, "Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me." It’s one of my favorite prayers.

And on the third day I sat down to read my Bible. I was in the habit of reading the Bible beginning to end, little by little. The chapter I was scheduled to read that night was the first introducing King David as a young lad. I didn’t know that in advance.

I got my three signs. I was blown away. Twenty years before, my best friend, Phoebe, and I had sat on the brick fence around the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, New Mexico, longing for communication from our guardian angels, but all we saw were some pigeons.

Phoebe and I used to celebrate Michaelmas (St. Michaels’ Day, Sept. 29) when we were roommates at the University of Kentucky.  She’d rent out Medieval Art books about angels and prop them up around the room. We’d light candles, pray and eat Angel Food Cake. I credit her solely for my devotion to the angels. And she is a convert to Catholicism, converted by the writings of the Medieval Catholics that she studied at Harvard University.

For my Protestant friends, I want to remind you that all true devotion is Christ centered. So the only purpose of devotion to our guardian angels is to draw closer to Christ. And that is our angels' purpose -- to draw us to Christ. An angel can be a friend, helper, beloved, but your devotion does not end with the good spirit. He is to be used as a ladder to Jesus Christ. 

Now if you are able to open communication with your angel, it is not recommended you share their name. However, I have shared David’s name (as I have in the past many times) as a teaching tool, the same as Father did with Alfredo.

So I was sitting at breakfast again on a different retreat, and
Note the angel in the background
directing Isidore's plow while he
another retreatant told me her guardian angel had made her bed that morning so she wouldn’t miss Mass. I started to tell her that was impossible, but I remembered that the guardian angels of 11th century farmer St. Isidore plowed the ground for him when he was delayed from his labor by deep prayer. "Hmm," I thought at my guardian angels, “Why didn’t you make my bed?” They said it was necessary for my salvation to do it myself. They are all Glory of God and Salvation of Souls around me. Yeah, I get it. No short cuts.  

One of my guardian angels works with weather, and recently a friend asked me to send him to make the weather beautiful in a certain week in Devon, England, for his children’s’ vacation. Well they only had one sunny day, and the rest was rain. Therefore I concluded the rain must have been necessary for the family’s salvation.

This particular angel is the one I constantly prayed to when we moved to Colorado. His name is the Greek word for spirit, Numa or Wind. His mission has to do with the Breath of the Holy Spirit. I asked him to keep the tornadoes and hail from my house because we couldn’t afford to fix it. On September 29, 2014, (the Feast of St. Michael), an “insane hail storm” hit the Denver area. I was in my bedroom, during the storm and it sounded like an army of angels were beating my house. I asked Numa, “What are you doing? You know we can’t afford to fix hail damage.”   

So this is when I learned the value of having a weather angel and homeowner’s insurance. We got a new roof, new paint and a new garage door. The deductible was $1,000, which we paid, but when the claim was completed we were reimbursed for our out-of-pocket expenses completely. We paid nothing.

That little angel just thought we needed to fix the house up so he blew in the storm. There isn’t a single house in my neighborhood that didn’t get a new roof thanks to the Michaelmas Hail Storm!

But mostly the job of guardian angels is to bring us to heaven. A lot of my angels have names related to my sanctification. So there’s one who is a specialist in self-knowledge. His image is lightening from the Throne of God, illuminating the world. It’s a great gift to know and recognize your sins so you can bring them to confession. It’s actually a punishment to be ignorant of your faults.

Another angel is the Refiner’s Fire. Like with gold, he heats me up so the impurities rise to the top leaving only the pure metal behind. I resist, of course, and try to keep the temperature low, as this is not a pleasant process. But with God’s help I will do better.

Now why do we want to know the names of our guardian angels? Just as St. Teresa discovered, it’s a means of coming into friendship with them. Being aware of their presence, and with your permission to do what’s necessary for your salvation, they can give you occasional discernment. Just this week the lightening angel showed me something I did that was not pleasing to God. I immediately made an act of contrition and prepared to confess it. God gave me the opportunity to apologize to the person I offended. That didn't happen by accident. It was a real experience arising out of a relationship with a spirit I know and love – someone God has given me for my salvation.

It’s okay to show affection for your guardian angels. Here is what Abbot St. Bernard had to say about the angels in today’s Office of Readings:

“We should then, my brothers, show our affection for the angels, for one day they will be our co-heirs just as here below they are our guardians and trustees appointed and set over us by the Father... Even though we are children and have a long, a very long and dangerous sway to go, with such protectors what have we to fear? They who keep us in all our ways cannot be overpowered or led astray, much less lead us astray. They are loyal, prudent, powerful. Why then are we afraid? We have only to follow them, stay close to them, and we shall dwell under the protection of God’s heaven."
Angel with cross
Statue at Lourdes, France

We can also send our angels out on missions. Pure spirits -- angels -- can be in multiple places at one time. So without leaving your side, your guardian angels can be sent to help whoever you are praying for. I have sent them to many people, especially children, to stay with them for the rest of their lives. 

I pray to my angels before I lector at Sunday Mass, and ask them to speak to the congregation and open their ears for the Word of God. They love that job. Every so often I’ll be reading, look up and see an expression of amazed “I heard that” on someone’s face.

I know a Catholic doctor who prays with his patients. God has given him an angel of healing. Whatever your apostolate, whatever your purpose in life, God has given you ministering spirits who are uniquely suited to assist you in your vocation.

Happy Feast of the Guardian Angels!
Mary, Queen of Angels, pray for us. 

Did you enjoy this piece? Maybe you would like to read 

LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION: Satan's strategy in the life of St. Teresa of Avila

which is about the fallen angels

Another angel poem?

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