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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Tragedies Abound: It's Time For Repentance!

 Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
3rd Sunday of Lent, Feb. 28, 2016
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Tucson, AZ

Repentance, repentance, repentance! 

In today’s Gospel (Luke 13:1-9) for this Third Sunday of Lent, we are given a clear and forceful call to repentance. 

In Jesus time, the Tower of Siloam

killed 18 people
In today’s Gospel, some people come to Our Lord Jesus to speak about a tragic situation. Some Galileans suffered at the hands of Pilate. In coming to Jesus with this situation, they were most likely seeking justice. Yet, Our Lord does not go along with this assessment. He uses this example to make a very important point -- the need for repentance.

“Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” Our Lord said.

And then He speaks of 18 people who were killed when a tower fell upon them. “Do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”

My brothers and sisters, Our Lord’s message is one that all of us need to take to heart every day of our lives.

We live in a fallen world. We experience

tragedies and suffering. We often do not know why some people suffer more than others or why God allows tragedies to take place, but today’s Gospel calls us to what is most important, that we need to be prepared for whatever may come in our lives and in our world by repenting of  our sins! For none of us know when our lives are going to end. Neither do we know when the tragedies of our  world will finally take its toll. 

In today’s second reading (1Cor 10: 1-12), Saint Paul teaches us to learn from what has taken place in the past. He uses the example of the Israelites. God had called the Israelites to be His chosen people. He called them to follow His commands so that they could be a people set apart.

Yet, the Israelites continued to turn away from God’s laws and, as a result,  had much pain and suffering. Saint Paul warns us not to "desire evil things as they did.” 

Take these words to heart because history repeats itself! Every society and people who turn away from God’s laws always experiences suffering.

The United States was founded as a Christian nation. Yet, we have gravely turned away from God's ways! The violence, the abortions, the widespread acceptance of immoral behavior, the continued destruction of the family shows we are -- as a nation -- rapidly turning away from God.

Our dollar bills say, “In God we trust.” Yet, these words are not worth the paper they are printed on if our hearts are far from God.

This year we elect a new president, but who will lead us into God's loving protection by  acknowledging God’s laws? 

God has allowed many tragedies in recent times in order to open our hearts and minds to conversion.
 When 9-11 took place, people were repenting. They were praying. The churches were filled. But it did not last long. We have gone right back to living as if we can live in our nation without God! 

Although each one of us doesn’t have control over the direction of our country and the world, we have control over our lives, and today’s readings call us to repentance! 

Let us listen to Our Lord. Let us repent our sins. Let us come to confession. Let us seek

to live chastely and devoutly. As we heard of the tragedies in today’s Gospel let us be reminded that we do not know when tragedy may come into our lives. In fact, none of us are going to live forever on earth. And even the world in which we live today will not be here forever. This is why our Lord teaches us that we must repent.

Let us follow our Lord’s wisdom. May God bless us and help us.

Did you enjoy this sermon? Fr. Shea has many others. Perhaps you would like to Learn a Lesson From the Fig Tree?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Sometimes Bad, Sometimes Good: Media's Impact on the Family

by Edwin Rodrigues 

Technology has endowed us with much power!

Just a click of the mouse or a “send” command on a smart phone can instantly transmit information and connect people scattered across the globe.

People can form groups where important updates can be shared with all the members instantly. In any given circumstance, in good times and in times of sickness, an update can ease fears of the worst or -- God forbid -- break unpleasant news without delay. The Internet and the various platforms of social media are indeed inventions to be marveled at!

Thankfully, good people have developed applications that give us access to the Order of the Mass and Daily Readings, the Liturgy of Hours, Saint for the Day and the Bible. My personal favorites are the Laudate and EWTN apps. These and many others are available free!  On EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network) I listen to Daily Mass and other rich Catholic content, which evangelizes with God’s own power! I can even get the latest Vatican news.

I've seen people very effectively using Whatsap, a mobile messaging app that allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS (text messaging). It's all done voluntarily, of course with inspiration from The Holy Spirit. One member of the group shares about the saint of the day, another shares Mass Readings, and yet another reflections.
All of this sanctifies and unifies everyone in the group besides confirming each other in the faith. “For the rest, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever modest, whatsoever just, whatsoever holy, whatsoever lovely, whatsoever of good fame, if there be any virtue, if any praise of discipline, think on these things.” (Phil 4:8)
Catholic means universal 
Sharing such hallowed content is a positive step in the direction of charity. Catholic means universal, and the Church’s outreach is global.

The modern means of communications are very potent tools for the spread of the Gospel. That is why every year, Holy Mother Church observes the Sunday before Pentecost, as World Communications Day. The celebration came in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, which recognized our Church must fully engage the modern world.

“The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anguishes of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anguishes of the followers of Christ as well,” (from the opening statement of the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes on “The Church in the Modern World.”

So while the Catholic Church is orthodox in its teachings there is always a pristine freshness and newness in all of its undertakings! 

But alas! Three words -- “fallen human nature" -- manage to creep into the conversation and we lose control over moderation and modesty in the name of modernity!

And once this sets in, much havoc is created as platforms such as Facebook, Whatsap (which are in and of themselves innocuous) are reduced to tools of addiction and selfish pleasure. Such is never gratifying. It leaves those indulging themselves disappointed and craving for more.

Also, the temptation is to present oneself as good-looking and well to do. These are forms of deception that the evil one loves to play with.

When we lose touch with Jesus, we automatically lose touch with reality and goodness. Precious time --  running into several hours in a day -- and money, which could have been used for noble and constructive pursuits, are exchanged for fleeting moments of self-centered entertainment. There is a real risk of one becoming narcissistic. Perhaps those who get caught in this vicious circle are looking for happiness. But unfortunately for them joy remains elusive. For Joy comes from being close to The Lord, who is Joy Himself.
"Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Psalm 127:1) This is evident in families that are not rooted in prayer and built on the Rock, who is Jesus Himself. Members of a household could be living under the same roof, and perhaps be present at the same table at a given moment but still ironically they could be so disjointed. Watch. Each member is busy communicating and yet there is “zero communication.” Each one is engrossed in side conversations with other friends on their phones. Little or no eye contact is made. Occasionally, someone might burst into laughter on reading a joke. The family goes through the motions of consuming the food while entirely missing out on the fellowship and grace of a meal! This is where media --through poor choices on our part -- can erode the fabric of the family.

What once was keenly anticipated as “family time” is now replaced by distractions in the form of “data.” Little children yearn for undivided attention. Even Pope Francis encourages parents to spend more time with their children. “Waste time with your children!” he quipped. "Do you play with your children?” Neglected children consequently imitate their parents and waste precious family time with mobile phones and other gadgets. Parents who are busy find it convenient to entertain their kids with nifty gadgets and then a new faulty pattern of living is born!
These clever shortcuts are detrimental to building up meaningful lasting relationships. Most of the people who are entangled in these patterns are beginning to experience an interior void. The virtual is robbing us of the real. Consequently, there could be some children with very high IQs, but lacking emotional maturity. Once people have easy access to the internet (in the absence of self-control), there is a great risk of getting sucked into our permissive culture.

Lord have mercy! For it’s very difficult to get rid of porn and game addictions. They create permanent neural pathways that make a person susceptible to sins of the flesh.

Having considered some of the merits and demerits of the media, we cannot leave ourselves hopeless. For  in the Lord is our hope and our strength. Christ is always the Victor and he has given us a strategy mentioned by St. Paul:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the
 heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” (Ephesians 6:10-18)

With this in mind, be alert and keep on praying. What is heartening also is that while the forces of darkness are at work, Catholic Radio in particular has gained much momentum and popularity in many parts of the world, which include the affluent U.S.A. and the impoverished Haiti. So, everything is not bleak especially for those who through Divine Providence come across good Catholic Radio such as EWTN and its affiliates.

EWTN’s outreach is global and its content reaffirming for someone struggling with  faith. One can get live coverage of papal events. There are testimonies of witnesses who have converted and chosen life when they were contemplating suicide or an abortion. Many have returned to the Church through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. After wandering in the wilderness for many years, they sought the sacraments because they heard what they needed to hear over the airwaves.

God’s Word speaks to the heart and it never returns empty. So shall my word be, which shall go forth from my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall do whatsoever I please, and shall prosper in the things for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:1) Amen!

Author Edwin Rodrigues can be found on Twitter at@EdwinEd1667 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

A Passion for Life Facing a Prescription for Death

  Pro-Life Canadian Doctors Want to Inform Patients How to Kill Themselves in Canada

by Susan Fox

Tora joyfully cooking something good
 in the late 1940s
The doctors conferred. My mother was dying, they concluded.

It was left to me to talk to her. “Mother, the doctors say you have sepsis and kidney failure. They say that kidney failure is a comfortable way to die, and they wondered if you wanted to just let go? ”

To let go and do what? Why die, of course, comfortably die. The doctors were suggesting she stop fighting for her life.

Tora Hutchison was only 82 years old, and death wasn’t on her schedule.

“That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard in my entire life!” she almost shouted. She said it in the same tone of voice she used when saying, “You haven’t got the sense that God gave a goose!”

So the game was on. My mother was going to fight for her life. We would shift her to a better hospital in a bigger city, and she would have her second leg removed so she might have life. She was in this position because her doctors – out of false pity – had dillied and dallied and delayed the amputation of her second leg for a solid year. Now she was dying from it.

My grandmother had her period every month she was pregnant with my mother, and the joke among my goofy Scandinavian family was that Mom's head hit the floor when she was born because Grandma didn’t know she was pregnant! This happened in 1919.

But mother lived, a premature baby, she said, because grandmother was a good mother, and she, too, loved life. She passed that trait to her daughter and granddaughter, Mother and me. Grandma was a U.S. immigrant from Finland. Grandpa was the same from Norway. Neither of them could speak a single word of the same language when they got married.

Now almost 100 years after Tora’s birth comes the Supreme Court of Canada legalizing euthanasia on Feb. 6, 2015, to take effect one year later. In the 1960s, Tora, seeing abortion was about to be legalized, predicted “Euthanasia will be next.” Did she realize she would be swept up in the right to die business? She, who fought for life, her entire life?

Angel of Death Comes for Canada 
As I write this, death has already come for Canadians. Since Feb. 6, 2016, they are legally free to go to their doctor and ask to be put to death. This puts Canadian physicians, who still retain a conscience, into a quandary. How can you write a prescription for death when God said, “Thou Shalt Not Kill.”?

Canadian physicians with consciences  wrote up “The Proposal” to the Canadian Medical Association.  It was offered by the Christian Medical and Dental Society with the support of the Canadian Federation of Catholic Physicians' Societies and Canadian Physicians for Life.

In it, they developed a “safe” approach to saving their consciences and staying out of jail. They could not in good conscience refer a patient to be euthanized, but they could, in fact, inform them that they might self-refer themselves. Patients are autonomous agents, after all, and able to make their own choices.

In the physician’s defense, they propose to try and “cure” the patient first of whatever is causing him to choose death.

But what is the difference between referring and informing someone about euthanasia? Catholic Theologian in Training, Lawrence Fox, who grew up on the rough streets of 
Tora's Son-in-Law Lawrence Fox
Baltimore, answered the question. “You tell them you can’t condone stealing, but you’d be happy to tell them where there's nobody watching their stuff!”

“I fear that these Canadian associations, despite their earnest desire to resist doctor-abetted suicide, have succumbed to defeatism. 'The Proposal' expresses a willingness to engage in what I understand to be formal co-operation with a patient’s request for abetted suicide,” said Canadian Witness for Life Mary Wagner, whose letter regarding euthanasia appeared in this blog Jan. 30, 2016. 

She herself has not chosen the easy way out of this dilemma with respect to abortion. She sits in the Vanier Centre for Women, a maximum-security prison for women located outside Toronto, Canada. Her Crime? 

She gives voice to the
Voice of the Voiceless Mary Wagner

child who cannot speak for himself. She uses her freedom to plead gently with a mother awaiting an abortion for the life of her child. And then under Canada’s insane “law,” she goes to jail!  

However, Canadian Douglas Farrow, writing for the respected First Things magazine, questioned if Mary was confused? Does Mary Wagner have the “a full grasp of the principles, circumstances, and strategies in question?” Is she “entirely fair to these associations?” the McGill University theologian inquired.  To be fair to the professor himself, he is as admirable a pro-family martyr himself as is Mary Wagner. He is outspoken against the new Canadian euthanasia “law” and he has stood up for traditional marriage and against the blurring of the distinctions between the sexes.  

However, I think he is wrong if he meant that one could morally inform someone about their right to kill themselves, while not referring them to be killed.  

This is what he said in First Things  “I’m not sure that Mary is entirely fair to these (medical) associations, or that she has a full grasp of the principles, circumstances, and
McGill University Professor Douglas Farrow
writes against same sex "marriage." 
strategies in question, though I won’t try to offer my own analysis of the Proposal. I will only note, in case you are wondering, that it does draw a clear line in the sand between
informing the patient of all legal options and referring the patient for an option that, while legal, is most certainly immoral. It roundly condemns the latter as cooperation with evil, while Mary’s letter condemns the former as well.”

Now Mary Wagner, myself and Professor Farrow are all Christians. In fact, Mary reminded us of that fact in her Letter from A Toronto Jail: We are Christians. We know that God will not abandon us, even in death. No matter the circumstance, we are called to witness to the risen Lord with our lives.”

 As such we recognize a form of discernment, which is called putting on the Mind of Christ. His thinking can be found in Scripture and the Teachings of the Catholic Church. And in fact I am often dismayed how many times Christians forget to read the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew chapters 5, 6 and 7 in order to sort out their moral dilemmas. So I will walk us through the Sermon on the Mount to discover who is right? Mary Wagner in jail for witnessing in an abortion clinic or  Professor Douglas Farrow.

Imagine Jesus going throughout all of Galilee, teaching and healing the sick and exorcising demons. Seeing He was followed by multitudes, he went up a high mountain and sat down.

Then He began to teach the people. What He taught them in Matthew 5-7 is the summary of the whole Old and New Testament. Few people in Jesus’ day were ready for this thinking, and scant few Christians today pay attention now.  We’ve grown indifferent to God’s manner of thinking. It is so alien to our own.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt lose its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is good for nothing any more but to be cast out, and to be trodden on by men.” (Matt 5:13) And today here we are --- Christians who are no longer tasty. We have lost our flavor.

“You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not kill. And whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca (Idiot), shall be in danger of the council. And whosoever shall say, Thou Fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” It isn't just murder that can put us in danger of hell.  If we call the driver engaging in dangerous moves on the freeway a “fool,” we also step closer to the fiery pit.  Anger is not pro-life, Jesus tells us.  

You have heard that it was said to them of old: “Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt 5: 27-28)  We can’t even look with lust in our hearts? We thought we were being so good, even faithful to our wives because we didn't act on our lusts. 

Christ shows that sin originates in the mind and the heart. So can you explain to a patient how they can arrange their own death? To tell them euthanasia services are available and they can self-refer would be to suggest to a vulnerable person that they could choose to die. And then, have you not in effect invited the person to examine the option of self-murder, to in effect choose death? Take one step closer to the fiery pit. 

I imagine that Professor Farrow thought that we would all agree that it is a good thing to keep a vast number of Canadian physicians out of prison.  But in fact, if Canada's physicians went to prison, would that not bring down the tyranny of the Canadian government and end the murder of innocents?   

As Christians, we are required to civilly disobey unjust laws even to the point of prison or death. The 16 Carmelite Martyrs of Compi├Ęgne daily offered themselves as victims to divine justice for the restoration of peace to France and the
 church for two long years during the tyranny of the French Revolution. God accepted their sacrifice. Each and every one of the 16 Carmelite nuns was beheaded. The terror of the French Revolution ended a few days after their collective sacrifice.

“Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection,” wrote the prophet Pope Saint John Paul II in the Gospel of Life.

“Human law is law inasmuch as it is in conformity with right reason and thus derives from the eternal law. But when a law is contrary to reason, it is called an unjust law; but in this case it ceases to be a law and becomes instead an act of violence,” he concluded.

This Canadian law – euthanasia and abortion –are contrary to right reason, and therefore they constitute an unjust act of violence. And should the Canadian people in good conscience find comfortable accommodation with laws that commit violence against them?

Or another way for the Christian to answer the question is, “Am I called to love the Lord my God with my whole heart? Do I love my neighbor as myself? Or only as much as I love my dog?”

“The Court's attempt to bully Canadians into accepting suicide under certain conditions in no way justifies suicide, or any form of co-operation with its process. Again, as our government tramples on justice, are we not called, in our dialogue and encounters with others to reaffirm that every human life is sacred, not counting the cost to ourselves but trusting in God and listening to him?” Mary Wagner concluded.

Yes! One thousand times, Yes! We cannot cooperate in any way with the unjust law that forces physicians to terminate human life! We cannot inform. We cannot refer. And we cannot kill. Jesus told the multitudes on the mountain, He did not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it! He came so we could live a life of deep virtue, a form of happiness far surpassing that of the Pharisees or the scribes, the best people of Jesus’ time!  

That is the sort of happiness Tora knew. She wasn’t pretty. She wore frumpy clothes, but she embraced a life of suffering and holiness when she converted to Catholicism in 1953. And in 2001, she stubbornly refused to die when the doctors were ready for her to give up.

Are you interested in the end of her story? Well once she reached the big city doctor, it was too late. He did not dilly nor dally, but he flatly refused to do the amputation necessary to save her life.  

And I was given two more beautiful weeks in the company of my mother, my dearest friend, before she died on Friday, June 29, 2001, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul during the hour of Divine Mercy.

My mother herself was blinded during the last three weeks of her life from the things going wrong in her body. The doctors were unsuccessful at instituting kidney dialysis, although they tried. But through this, she savored life completely. She was a salty Catholic!
Now many will say what happiness can anyone have in two weeks of suffering and death? Many, who want to avoid just such an end, favor euthanasia. But they don’t recognize true happiness. Hers was the happiness of doing what is right, loving God with her whole heart, and loving her neighbor as Christ has loved us.

In the car on the way to the hospital, my husband and I prayed the Rosary. She was very sick, but she said with joy – as if she was a long ways away from us, “Why you are praying the Rosary for me!”

I left her in the hospital room with a tape playing. A song on the Holy Eucharist written and sung by Catholic artist Simonetta  was playing. When I returned to the room, my mother had one big long tear coming from one eye. She loved. She was happy. The name "Tora" is Norwegian for teardrop. Tears are salty. 

I brought in herbs from my garden, and she teased me, “You didn’t want to garden when you were young.” But she smelled the herbs with intense enjoyment. Blind, she taught me that we don’t deny the enjoyment of our senses, but Christ purifies them.

God accepted her sacrifice. In her last hour of her life, realization dawned. On her face she wore such a poignant look of joy and sadness. Yes, she again shed the one tear. In those last moments, she seemed to realize what she had always said to me, “Isn’t life good? And then you die.”

But don’t let anyone push you out the door before it is time.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” (Psalm 116:15)

THIS IS MARY WAGNER'S LETTER FROM PRISON,  Euthanasia in Canada: "An Opportunity to Bear Witness to Christ." 

Vox Populi! In the Catholic Church, the cause for sainthood can begin with the voice of the people. 

Would you like to see Tora Hutchison beatified by the Roman Catholic Church? Please write to her bishop and tell him her story has touched you, asking him to open the cause for her beatification, which is the first step towards canonization. He is keeping a file of letters testifying to her holiness in life. 

Please do ask Tora to pray for your intentions! She died on June 29, and my family and I go to Mass every June 29 and ask for big miracles. God has gloriously granted all our requests. We are not the only ones who have been so blessed through her intercession. Report miracles and ask the bishop to begin the process of her beatification. He is: 

Paul D. Etienne
Archbishop of Seattle
710 9th Ave.
Seattle, Wash. 98104-2017

Send a copy of your letter, if you wish to her pastor: 

Father Peter Adoko-Enchill
St. Mary Star of the Sea
1335 Blaine Street
Port Townsend, WA 98368

To Read More on Tora's Life, go to On Marriage and Personal Conscience